As you read the various modules of FibroGuide you will notice that many of the self-care approaches require making changes to your lifestyle. Using the skills described in this module on goal setting may help you set and achieve goals such as:
- Maintaining good sleep habits
- Taking part in physical activity every day
- Making time to relax
- Pacing yourself to prevent overdoing
Managing your fibromyalgia symptoms is an ongoing process. And goal setting, like riding a bike or playing the piano, takes practice, patience, and persistence. To start, focus on one area that is causing you concern. As you get used to the goal-setting process, you may be able to take on new goals and find additional ways to feel better and enjoy life. The Setting Goals Work Sheet may help you plan and track your goals and practice your goal-setting skills.
What is a realistic goal?
A goal is realistic if it both is achievable and pushes you to do a little more than what you are already doing. A goal that is too hard to achieve sets you up for failure and may cause you to lose interest. For example, a goal of exercising 30 minutes every day may not be realistic if you aren’t currently active. A more practical goal may be to start off walking 5 minutes a day and then slowly increase that time, using a pacing plan like the ones described in Pacing Yourself. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before increasing your exercise time.
To figure out what your goal might be, you need to assess what you are able to do right now. Choose an activity that you enjoy. Each day, monitor and track how long you can do this activity without your symptoms getting worse. If you are unsure of how long you should try an activity when you begin, talk with your healthcare provider. How long you can do an activity right now is called your baseline. Once you know your baseline, you can set a realistic goal for that task that is slightly beyond your baseline. For example, if your baseline level is walking for 5 minutes safely, try adding a few minutes to that and make that new level your initial goal.
Taking the following steps may help you set and achieve your goals. Each step will be explained in greater detail below.
- Step 1: State your goal
- Step 2: Get information
- Step 3: Brainstorm ideas
- Step 4: Review your ideas
- Step 5: Make specific plans
- Step 6: Act on your goal
- Step 7: Evaluate how it went
- Step 8: Plan to reward yourself
Step 1: State your goal
One way to state your goals clearly is to use the SMART approach to setting goals. This helps make sure your goals are:
- Specific - know what you want to achieve, figure out how to do it, and set a time frame for achieving it
- Measurable - be sure you can tell whether you are achieving them; for example, if one of your goals is to walk 10 minutes a day, wear a watch so you can time yourself
- Attainable - make sure your goals are reasonable; start slowly and work up to larger goals
- Realistic - keep your abilities and limitations in mind when you think about what you would like to achieve
- Trackable - look for ways to keep track of your progress, such as using an exercise log
Choose a goal that is really important to you. Then:
- Clearly state the specific task you want to do or the problem you want to solve. For example, my goal is to exercise for 10 minutes every morning
- Break your goal into smaller steps and take one step at a time. For example:
- Week 1: My goal is to exercise for 5 minutes every morning
- Week 2: My goal is to exercise for 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes on 4 mornings during the week
- Week 3: My goal is to exercise for 10 minutes every morning
- Try to work on goals for one lifestyle area at a time so you can focus your attention on being successful. Once I’ve reached my initial exercise goals, I’ll focus on some relaxation skills
Be sure to work with your healthcare provider as you work through these steps. This will help you set goals that are right for you.
Step 2: Get information
Sometimes it may take more effort to complete a goal than you first think it will. Collect information to help you decide how you will try to reach your goal. For example, if you have decided you want to exercise more often, you can:
- Start by thinking about what you know about exercising
- Talk with other people about their exercise habits. They may have some ideas you haven’t considered for exercises to try or ways to fit exercise into your day
If you don’t know what exercise routines you would enjoy or would help you feel better, you could:
- Get ideas from Being Active or the Support Organizations list, which you can link to in the lower right corner
- Try different exercise routines to see what works best for you
- Ask family members, friends, others with fibromyalgia, or your healthcare provider what types of exercises might be enjoyable and good for you to do. Always talk with your healthcare provider before starting or changing any exercise routine
Step 3: Brainstorm ideas
You may need to first change your lifestyle or solve certain problems before you can reach your goal. Brainstorming helps you think of many creative solutions by allowing you to:
- Free your mind so creative ideas can flow
- Think of ideas without judging any of them—there are no right or wrong ideas when you’re brainstorming
- Come up with many ideas. The more ideas you have, the better your chance of having a few really good ones
For example, if your goal is to exercise every morning, you could brainstorm these possible ideas:
- Get up when the alarm sounds, without pressing the snooze button
- Go to bed earlier so it is easier for you to get up early
- Find an exercise partner to work out with you in the morning
- Pick an exercise you can look forward to doing each morning
Step 4: Review your ideas
Review your brainstorming ideas by asking yourself: Is the solution something I will enjoy? Is the solution realistic? If your goal is to stick with a morning exercise routine, for example, here are ways you could apply these questions:
Solution 1: Go to bed earlier
Ask yourself: Is the solution something I will enjoy?
Answer: Yes, I actually like going to bed early
Ask yourself: Is the solution realistic?
Answer: No, there is too much activity in my house for me to go to bed early
Solution 2: Find an exercise partner
Ask yourself: Is the solution something I will enjoy?
Answer: Yes, it would be fun to work out with an exercise partner
Ask yourself: Is the solution realistic?
Answer: Yes, my best friend has offered to exercise with me
After reviewing all the ideas, choose the solution that is both enjoyable and realistic. That is the one most likely to work.
Step 5: Make specific plans
Once you decide which solution you are going to try, develop a plan to carry out your goal:
- Write out your plan so you can see it clearly. For example: I will exercise with a friend to help motivate me to exercise in the morning
- Identify and list barriers to carrying out your plan. For example: I must find someone to watch my 2-year-old while I am out exercising
- Resolve barriers. Use Pacing Yourself, Thinking Differently, and Communicating to find ways to help yourself overcome any barriers
If you can’t think of ways to overcome the barriers, it may help to:
- Break down your plan into smaller steps
- Brainstorm again to come up with more ideas
- Modify your goal to something more workable
Step 6: Act on your goal
- Place notes, your Setting Goals Work Sheet, or a printout of your personal collage from the Time for You Step on the refrigerator or a mirror to remind or encourage yourself
- Ask a family member or friend to join you in meeting your goal
- Keep track of your progress so you know how you are doing
Step 7: Evaluate how it went
Think about how things went when you put your plan into action. Ask yourself these questions:
- Have I met my goal?
- If I had problems, how did I deal with them?
- What is the next goal I want to set?
As you answer these questions, you may find that: You met your goal. Congratulations! Now you can think about setting a new goal.
Things didn’t always go perfectly. There may have been days when you altered the activity from what you had planned or skipped it altogether. Forgive yourself, refocus, and commit to trying again.
You didn’t meet your goal at all. Think about what changes you can make to increase your chances of succeeding next time. The important thing is to not give up. As you think about ways to adjust your goal for next time, you may want to:
- Review Step 1 to see if your goal was realistic
- Use the topic Thinking Differently to help give yourself a better mind-set for reaching your goal
- Use the topic Pacing Yourself for tips on learning a pace that works for you and keeps you from overdoing it
- Use the topic Communicating to learn ways to talk to other people about what you are doing and ways they may be able to help
- Talk with your healthcare provider so he or she can help you review your goals and find workable solutions
Step 8: Plan to reward yourself
Feeling healthier and stronger may be all the reward you need for reaching your goal. But you also may want to do something special to reward yourself. Decide in advance what you want your reward to be, such as going to a movie or enjoying special time with a friend or family member. Giving yourself something special to look forward to may make working toward your goal a little easier if the going gets rough.
Use the Setting Goals Work Sheet to help guide you through each of these steps.
It is important to work with your healthcare provider as you set your goals and work toward achieving them.
To learn more about setting goals as part of managing fibromyalgia, watch the video, featuring David Williams, PhD, a leading fibromyalgia expert.
A note for family and friends
Setting realistic goals can help
Everyone, not just people with fibromyalgia, can benefit from learning how to set realistic goals. As a person who helps someone with fibromyalgia, you can use this information about goals to help the person make important lifestyle changes. You can help him or her:
- Identify problems
- Make a goal-setting plan
- Deal with obstacles along the way
You can also use this information to set your own goals. The same goal-setting process may make a big difference in your life, too.
Exercise, when done safely, can benefit you physically and mentally. It helps prevent deconditioning of muscles which is often associated with more pain. Studies find that exercise is one of the most beneficial approaches to managing pain.