Learning to set Dynamic Goals for people battling Chronic Pain and/or their Caregivers
For some time, I could not directly pinpoint the uneasy feeling I felt after listening to webinars from pop
ular, enthusiastic, energetic and well known life coaches sponsored by MyIntent including their MyIntent Inner warrior training. That is until one day, after pushing myself beyond my limitations, almost to the detriment of my personal health as it has exacerbated many of the symptoms related to Myasthenia Gravis and Dysautonomia causing significant flare-ups.. During this time, secondary symptoms relating to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome have progressed. Particularly, my joint issues, in particular, my cervical and upper back vertebrae issues have further degraded and have impacted the motor skills of my left arm and hand. All the while, I still found myself severely frustrated that I was unable to meet
the goals I had set out for myself that morning. One might say, even angry, disappointed and judgin
g myself in a less then favorable light for “failing” to meet my personal expectations.
As my home infusion nurse helped me to the couch, I realized that the message of "just Do IT", "do not be lazy", "don't hold back", "push through it" and so forth, not only did not resonate with
me but could be potentially dangerous. Especially if I were to force myself to achieve the goals I had established for myself. If I were to evaluate my success, at that moment, in the eyes of these particular presenters, the response would be much less than favorable. At least in the “eyes” of these presenters.
Over the past few months, I've heard quite a few different life coaches present their various programs. Many have expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for planning, interacting and following through with established goals.The motivational and inspirational energy exuded by these individuals can be infectious. This can be very positive for the general population, especially those that are healthy and able to fully commit themselves. However, many of these coaches have not r
esonated with myself or others in the disability community.
As a person who battles several severe chronic illnesses resulting in a great deal of fatigue and left bedridden some of the time, a good deal more than I wish. Their message of 'just do it”, "just get up, “'' Just get dressed", “don’t be lazy” and other similar sentiments does not ring true in our comm
unity. In fact, statements such as these can be very detrimental as it can lead one to deval
ue themselves when unable to succeed and meet established expectations. In many cases, it may even impact one's self image and mental health. Especially for those
who are made to believe their chronic pain is "only in their head".
The mantra of "Just Get up" or "Just do it" is a valid one. For many, these statements are great motivators. Some simply need to hear "no excuses, just do it" and similar motivational statements. That being said, those with severe chronic illness who hear such sentiments might internalize them in a negative way when unable to perform at that level.
Rather than negate the concept and necessity of goal setting, I want to encourage people to set goals within the realisti
c realm of one's own abilities (SMART goals- Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, Timetable). Moreover, I wish to teach people to be fluid in their goal setting so that on those days their ability to function is very limited, they feel comfortable to reset their goals based on that day's abilities or even that moment's abilities. We need to teach fluidity in setting one's individual goals empowering people to adjust the goals as needed. Rather than putting forth the "black letter rule" that said the goal must be complete by "this" time today. Such methodology can lead one to devalue themselves as well as their own "worthiness".
Moreover, we need to address the fact that there will be days, moments in time, maybe even weeks where we will not be able to achieve our desired goals. WE must address this, affirm the situation and affirm that we still value the person as an individual and for what they are able to accomplish. We ne
ed to teach people that it is perfectly “OK” to set very small goals for oneself, especially during the more challenging times.
It is important that we teach people to “redefine success” based on a realistic observation of their abilities. It is also just as important to help these individuals find activities or programs that help facilitate an accomplishment that benefits another individual. Be it a pen pal or creation of a decoration or gift for another. Such activities will help increase their own self image while helping to raise the spirits of another thereby increasing one’s value of their self worth.
Encourage small, achievable goals, one can do with little energy, yet still be of benefit to others. One such goal could be
to create a card for a neighbor, community member sheltering in place alone or someone in a senior citizen center/hospital. Small, but achievable goals can help someone value themselves and their accomplishments.
Though this article was written and published by The Mighty many months ago, the essence of this article still rings true! Each and everyone of us has something amazing and incredibly special to share with this world. We just need to work together to help provide others the opportunity to engage and grow our inner light!