Setting goals when you are healthy can be a challenge, as you have so many distractions which can pull you away. These can be time, energy and finances, to name a few. When you live every day with fatigue, pain or cognitive problems (over 50% of people living with MS experience this) it makes it even more difficult to be a success.
I have watched many self-help gurus talking about mind set and determination/willpower to achieve your life goals and I have often been under their spell. However, I have learned that I had to see goal setting through a different lens. The rules of my game are not the same as the game of life played by the healthy. In this post, I want to share how I set my goals.
- Relationships: I depend on the people around me, particularly my wife. I make sure my goals are in harmony with her goals.
- Sleep well: I must get at least 8.5 hours sleep every night and I don’t have the luxury of having a flexible bedtime. My routine must be consistent.
- Eat well: No junk or processed foods, staying away from dairy & beef. The way I achieve this is to always prepare food from scratch, using the best ingredients we can. There will be the odd day when I travel when these rules are broken, or for festive breaks, but I must return to the usual diet.
- Exercise: My preference is to go for a walk midday, weather permitting, and if this isn’t possible, I will use my exercise bike to keep the legs working. Outdoors is better, fresh air and no distractions. Plus, my wife accompanies me, and we have a great chat as we walk. Positive physically and mentally.
- Work a maximum of 10-12 hours per week, and in 30-40 minute blocks: Experience has shown me I must adhere to this, otherwise I can lose a day or two from my plans. It happens and I pay the price. Usually this is planned, so it isn’t a shock, just the fine for breaking this rule.
Many years ago, when I was learning how to set business goals, I was taught about the SMART technique (you can learn more here). This has worked very well for me over the years and I have adapted it to suit me.
S = Specific: it is very tempting to say “I want to lose weight” as a goal, but this is too vague. How will you know if you have achieved your goal? It is much better to have a goal of I will lose 5 kg. This is precise and much easier to visualise.
M = Measurable: In the previous example, I wrote “to lose 5 kg.” If you have a weighing scale and you know your current weight, say 80 kgs, you will need to weigh 75 kg to achieve your goal. Much easier.
A = Achievable: Continuing with the weight example, if I said I wanted to weigh 40 kg, it could not happen, as I cannot weight that and still be alive. I would probably die before it would happen. I know this is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.
R = Relevant: The goal must be something you want to do. If you have no interest in it, then you will fail every time.
T = Timely: This is probably the hardest of these, as it is sometimes difficult to know how long it will take to do something. If I want to lose 5 kilo’s I need to know when I should have the task completed. Is it in one week, or maybe four months. If I choose the former, it will be much more difficult to do, whereas four months might be a little too long. If I chose five weeks, I could then break that down to a kilo a week.
My 6th step when you live with Multiple Sclerosis
Applying these guidelines, you will have achievable goals. I want to lose five kilos in five weeks. This is a perfect goal for anyone to set, but when you live with MS, you need to have some flexibility. The final guideline is timely, but MS doesn’t like to help with goal setting. It often brings fatigue, cog fog and pain, which will ruin any timeline you set. I accept I will have bad days. To compensate for these, I will add these lost days onto my schedule for my goals. This extra step is vital, otherwise you will be extra pressuring yourself to overwork to make up for the lost time, and this leads into a boom and bust cycle, which can lead to depression. I don’t want that!!
Have you set any goals recently? Do you agree with my method? Let me know in the comments.