The other day we discussed Spoon Theory and how balancing PanKwake’s spoons and my own was becoming more challenging with my new diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I want to follow that up today by talking about how all that affects goal setting.
For the past fifteen plus years since I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I have been committed to goal setting. In particular, it has become a lifeline for the past seven years since my miscarriage, battle with depression, and PanKwake’s diagnosis with autism.
Each December I spend the time between Christmas and New Year reviewing last year’s goals and setting new ones of the year to come. I begin the process with an exercise called the Wheel of Life. It asks you to examine eight specific areas of your life…
You put these into a cute little pie chart. Ranking each in terms of your personal satisfaction with that area. I use three colors for mine.
- Green = Happy with that area
- Yellow = Stable, not a top priority, but needs a bit of work
- Red = Of course, equals needs loads of work…TOP priority
Since beginning this process, seven years ago I have collected all those Wheels in a box. I can look back over them and see the progress in my life. Some of it because of the work I have done…self-improvement and others like Cookie Monster are Fate giving me a hand.
Once I have done that then I make goals for each of those areas. I then print those out, laminate them, and put them on my Goals Quilt that hangs in my personal space. That forces me to look at them almost daily.
But the process did not stop there. Each month I set smaller objectives within each of those areas. I kept those in little notebooks. Then every week I broke those down into weekly and daily objectives. A process that kept me ever moving towards those bigger goals.
BUT WHAT NOW?
I mean PanKwake’s autism has always had an impact on my capacity to achieve my goals. Particularly my career ones. Home educating an autistic child takes a huge chunk of your time. So my writing often got the short end of that stick. Add to that now the health issues with RA! That delicate balance with our Spoons Calculus. Is goal setting even possible?
First of all though, I want to look at a more important issue…MENTAL HEALTH. A lot is written about the stress of raising an autistic child…I won’t go into my personal feelings on that subject. But I will acknowledge that it is important as the parent of an autistic child to take care of your own mental health. Positivity is crucial.
And for me the key to remaining positive is PURPOSE. Meaning and making a difference. In PanKwake’s life, my other children, now Cookie’s…but also the lives of others, especially those closest to me.
Goal setting is about THAT. Furthering my purpose. Keeping me on the path towards the things I feel are most important…my unique purpose on this planet…in this life.
To abandon that now…when I need it the most…to fight and win this latest battle…would be counter-productive to my mental health. Especially given that depression is as prevalent in RA as it is parenting.
So, NO, I am not giving up on my goals.
But I also have be more realistic. When there are two or more days each week when every single step I take hurts. When I have to ask for help lifting pots, mopping floors, and making beds. When my hands are so numb that I cannot tell if I am going to drop a plate. When I must take a break after every little task I do accomplish.
Well, I have to make allowances. I have been thinking about that for the last couple of weeks as I try to relearn my own body that is betraying me…after all RA is an auto-immune disease. Here is what I have come up with…
I need to abandon the minutia of daily objectives. Cut myself some slack and look at the bigger picture. That means that monthly goals are the focus.
Then from those I work on weekly tasks. But allowing myself more wiggle room day to day. If one day, all I can mange is to look after PanKwake and Cookie, keep the house from becoming a total mess…then so be it. I will try to make it up on a good day. And if I don’t succeed on making weekly tasks then push those into the next week too. It is that overall picture that I am working towards.
Will it work? Will this new Spoonie succeed? Who knows. But it goes back to mental health. Every step forward counts…even baby ones. It is about keeping that positivity and purpose alive. I have done that through two divorces, single parenthood, losing jobs, too many moves to count, epilepsy, autism, miscarriage, and too much other shit to remember. I certainly am not going to let RA beat me now.
What do you do to stay positive? To take care of your mental health? To give purpose and meaning to your life?