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ME/CFS/FM and Pursuing Your Goals Safely

Last Sunday I sat down determined to write and post a blog post. I was stuck though and couldn’t think of anything to blog about. Instead I decided to write a stream of consciousness and see what would come up. I soon realised that I was being a slave to my goals. Having something to aim for can be a great motivation but somehow I’d allowed my goals to turn into a stick that I beat myself up with when I wasn’t keeping up with my self-imposed schedule of achievement. ‘Aha’ I thought ‘now I have something to blog about’. But then I realised that actually I was tired, and what I really needed in that moment was to give myself permission to rest.

Goals can be dangerous. They are alluring. We want to achieve what we want to achieve and we usually want to achieve it soon! Even when we get good at breaking our goals down into small steps, each achievement can offer the kind of satisfaction that’s rare in the life of the chronically ill. So we want to repeat it. Goals are most dangerous when we set ourselves a schedule. Even when we’re very generous with how much time we give ourselves, there is so much unpredictability about our condition that it’s rare that we achieve our goals in the time frame that we expect, without pushing beyond our safe daily limits.

But life without goals becomes meaningless and depressing. We need goals to inspire and motivate us. So here are a few tips about attaining goals safely:

Goals need to be flexible: They need to change with our changing needs. One day our goal may be to walk for 20 minutes but if we’re having a bad day we may need to cut that right back to just 5 minutes.

We need to avoid fixing a timescale to our goals: Achievement is achievement no matter when it happens! It really doesn’t matter how long it takes us to get somewhere, what matters is that we get somewhere and enjoy the journey along the way. We won’t enjoy the journey if we beat ourselves up for not being quick enough.

Self-compassion must come first: We mustn’t let our goals get in the way of being kind to ourselves. Goals are supposed to help us to be happy, but they won’t if we use them to beat ourselves up!

We need to be careful about the meaning we attach to achievement / non achievement: One thing that I realised was pushing me to keep on my self-imposed schedule was that I had subconsciously attached a meaning to not keeping up: If I couldn’t keep up with Sunday blog posting it meant that my baseline of sustainable activity had dropped. I didn’t want to face the idea that I wasn’t doing as well as I used to so I was pushing myself to do as well. As soon as I connected to this fear of having gone downhill I realised that the meaning I had attached was faulty and unnecessary. Just because one day I’m not well enough keep up posting on a Sunday doesn’t have to mean I’ve gone down hill. If I attach it to all the other Sundays I’ve struggled to post recently then I could come to that conclusion, but there are other meanings I could choose instead (like I’ve been working really hard recently in preparation for starting my new coaching business). The best thing of course would be to choose not to give it any meaning at all and just focus on doing the best for myself in the here and now!

Do you ever become a slave to your goals?
 

7 Responses to ME/CFS/FM and Pursuing Your Goals Safely

  1. Amanda September 15, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Oh absolutely! This is my on-going challenge and all your tips are very good ones. Especially about attaching a schedule to the goals. Yet, if your goal involves “real world” interaction, there may be an external deadline, and who wants to withdraw totally? Not me, not just yet. So I try to choose goals where my non-completion won’t effect anyone else badly, so I can be freer to withdraw/not participate if necessary. Then I just have to manage your final point….not attaching meaning to not completing the goal on this occasion.
    It has taken many, many years, but I think that I mostly manage to walk this challenging path these days.

  2. lennae87 September 15, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    I totally agree! It’s great having goals but they need to be flexible and not have a set time-frame for those of us that are suffering!

    Lennae
    http://www.lennae87.wordpress.com

  3. Jan April 19, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    Thankyou for this. I have always been a list person. Am new to this illness and that is one thing I find hard. I am learning to prioritise and that my list now takes 2 or 3 days instead of one.

    • ME/CFS Self-Help Guru
      ME/CFS Self-Help Guru May 6, 2016 at 10:29 am #

      I love lists too Jan. I try and make sure I break down my goals into tiny pieces to put on my list so it’s easy to tick something off without having to push myself to complete a task. I also have an overall list and a list for toady always knowing that anything that didn’t get done on today’s list can be put on tomorrows or the next days etc. Prioritising a great skill especially if you can put being kind to yourself at the top of the list!

  4. Alyssa May 3, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    Thank you for writing this. I wrote a blog not so long ago about how many of us are Type A personalities. Pushing ourselves, being over achievers. Putting a huge amount of pressure on ourselves to be ‘perfect’ and when we’re not achieving what we believe we should be (or once did), then we tend to mark ourselves as failures. We’re so hard on ourselves!

    • ME/CFS Self-Help Guru
      ME/CFS Self-Help Guru May 6, 2016 at 10:34 am #

      It’s tough to break the habit of being hard on ourselves isn’t it Alyssa! I try and make being kind to myself something I want to get good at, so that I feel like I’m achieving something when I’m doing the things that give my body the best possible chance of healing itself. Nowadays instead of aiming for efficiency I aim for effortlessness!

  5. treasa May 13, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

    Love this post and your responses Julie , thank U !!… if we can manage to do this ..there is a better chance to bring others on board …

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