It’s January 1st. Today, people are working out, eating salads, and meditating. But in three months, a good chunk of them probably won’t be. That’s the tough thing about new years resolutions; they’re hard to keep.
Imagine that your goal for the new year is to exercise every day. On January 1st, you go to the gym. On the second, you go. On the third, you go. On the fourth, you go. But on the fifth, you have a cold. You tell yourself, “whatever, it’s just a cold, other people workout when they have a cold,” and so you go. On the sixth, your cold is pretty bad, but you go anyways. But on the seventh, you’re really really sick. So you stay home and don’t exercise that day. Does this mean you failed? Has your success been ruined after only 6 days by something out of your control? I guess it depends who you ask. If you ask me, I would say your goal was pretty bad in the first place, because your ability to achieve it is out of your control. All it takes is one day without exercising and BAM! You failed!
It’s hard to set good new year’s resolutions because there are so many factors in our lives that we can’t control. And when you’re chronically ill, your body is likely one of those things that feel out of control. So how do you set long-term goals when it’s almost impossible to know how you’ll feel the next day? Here’s what I recommend:
Focus on routines, not on results. Don’t set a goal to lift “x” amount of weight within 2 weeks. Because if you’re struggling for part of those 2 weeks and you don’t reach your goal, you’ll feel disappointed even though you couldn’t control the situation. Instead, create a goal that is focused on a routine. Something open-ended like “exercise 3 days a week.” When you set a goal focused on a routine, you can achieve it even when you hit a bump in the road, and you can change your approach based on how you feel. If you aren’t feeling well, maybe you only exercise for 10 minutes that day. Or maybe you take a walk instead of going to a class at the gym. While your fitness level might not improve as quickly as it would have had you been focused on a specific result, you save yourself from “failing” due to your illness. And in the end, the routine you form is more important than one result.
There’s no doubt that chronic illness can make you feel like you’ve lost control of your body. It can make you think that you are a failure when you can’t do something because of how you feel. This year, the challenges you face due to chronic illness might stay the same. And they will probably still be out of your control. But setting routine-focused goals gives you back some of that control and works with your condition instead of against it so that you can succeed.