For several years I stopped setting goals because I kept getting disappointed. Lupus and my other illness kept "interrupting" my goals. Life does that sometimes, right? But then, I realized that not making any goals was pretty negative and un-motivating. I set some goals for 2016 and 2017 and while I was able to accomplish a few, the ones that really mattered to me weren't accomplishable because of my health or things outside of my control. I have to be careful with goals because I am such a type A personality, I can easily slip into measuring my worth by accomplishments and productivity. My life right now looks very very different from what it used to (not all in a bad way!) so I am learning how to reset my definition of productivity and what it looks like in my current season.
I realized I was started to cringe when I thought of goal setting and so I started walking through an excellent goal-setting blog series by Lara Casey to see if it might change my perspective on goal setting. I love what she says:
"Cultivated goals help you grow what you've been given"
You guys. I KEEP comparing what I used to be able to do to what I can do now. "Comparison is the thief of joy" ~ Theodore Roosevelt. My goals aren't realistic to my current capability or things I've been gifted with...I am focusing on either what I used to be or what I want to come about and completely missing the here and now, completely missing what I have been given now to work with. My goal setting hasn't been motivating me or growing me - it's been breeding discontentment.
As I read through the first 3 parts of the series, I kinda got hung up on something - as much as I love the grace-filled and intentional words and process she's recommending for setting goals...things look really different when you're chronically ill...and it's left me feeling like there's something missing in this whole goal setting thing...
How do you set and achieve goals when you're chronically ill?
With chronic illness, every day can be different and huge changes can all of a sudden trumpet their way into your normal schedule, making it feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. As you adjust, you start taking stock of where you are and what you can do and it can be easy to list the "can't anymore" instead of "can still" or even better "this is a new can/opportunity." So how does one wisely set goals and dream dreams but also hold onto them loosely, be flexible, and willing to accept changes one can't control?
:picture my face frowning and thinking:
Spoiler - I don't have an answer, but I am going to share some thoughts that I am ruminating on and would love to hear others opinions and perspectives on this one!
The struggle: I write down things like "exercise 3 times a week" but my reality has to reword that to "as much as I am able, be physically stronger by the end of the year" or "be as active as you can every day" and the vagueness bothers me. Again, type A and an engineer to boot - I like exactness and specificity. I wrote down "spend 1 hour every day studying for counseling certificate" and I struggle to add 17 caveats about "it's okay if your brain fizzes out 15 minutes in" or "it's okay if you have an entire week where you just have to rest and even reading is a chore".
In a world that demands exacts and black and whites and firm and strong statements, I struggle to not follow the world's status quo and believe that it's actually acceptable to be weak at times, to be vulnerable, to fail and be okay with just failing and not having to try again, but to always move on, move forward, rather than beating myself up. To celebrate and rejoice in the attempt.
Merriam Webster defines grace as "mercy, pardon, a temporary reprieve" and in Christian beliefs, "unmerited divine favor."
It comes down to giving grace to myself. Because God has given me grace. It means allowing myself not to be perfect (gasp!) because He doesn't expect me to be perfect. I am a work in progress, He is perfecting me.
Grace isn't an excuse to just sit like a lump and wait for things to change or to not try - there are many, MANY references in Scripture with active commands to do, practice, live, love - those aren't passive make-excuses passages - they are a call to arms! But they are a call to arms within the grace of God and within His love for me.
My friend Rachel recently posted a realization (that got me thinking, thanks Rachel!) she had about resolutions and how they can be like following the Ten Commandments - some are easy to follow and some seem impossible at times (hello - don't covet (want) what your neighbor has...but those boots are SO cute, why can't I have them too?)...in Matthew, a group of priests asks Jesus "which of these commandments is the most important?" and Jesus says "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it "you shall love your neighbor as yourself"" (Matthew 22:36-39) - Loving God and others first allows us to follow those Ten Commandments.
- Loving God and others first will align my heart to His, to align my goals and dreams to His, to allow me grace when I struggle to be flexible with changes that come my way.
- Loving God and others first will point me to the here and now and what I have been given so that I can cultivate goals with what I have been given and grow where I am planted and work within the space He has given me, rather than wishing for another space. It's not wrong to hope and dream, we need to, He made us that way. But our hopes and dreams must, for the one who believes in God, be rooted in Him. Trusting in His plan.
- Loving God and others first will allow me to choose joy, putting Him before me.
Y'all, I am still processing and thinking on this, so I apologize for the lack of resolution (pun intended).
My take-away so far:
Goals are good and needed to make forward progress in anything. Goals are hard to make when you are chronically ill but illness shouldn't keep me from growth. As my bestie pointed out, I have to be creative with my goals. I have to give myself grace to not meet what society says I should look like, and rather strive to meet what God says I should look like and be like. If I focus on what God wants me to do and be and what He has given me, then contentment and hope should flow from that focus.
So, what I have been given? What have you been given? How does that change or not change the goals that you've put together for this year?