As I explained in my Happy (Almost) New Year post two weeks ago, I developed my own process for setting lifetime goals and then specific objectives and targets to move me toward those goals each year, then I adjusted that process after I got sick. You can read all the details (with links to more information) in that earlier post. This is a process that anyone can use - the types of goals, objectives, and targets you have will just naturally reflect your own lifestyle and limitations, while helping you do the things you want to do, whether that's improving your health or taking better care of yourself or learning a new hobby or staying in touch with family and friends or ... whatever is important to you!
And if my goal-setting process doesn't feel right for you, last week's post, 5 Ways to Start the New Year Right!, offers plenty of other inspiring options from other bloggers for making your new year happier, calmer, and more compassionate.
So, here's my own summary - you can look back at my post My Progress in 2018 and My Goals in 2019 for details on last year's objectives, but I will try to sum those up here, too.
My Progress in 2019
I have 6 Lifetime Goals that represent what I want my life to look like.
My Lifetime Goals:
- To nurture and enjoy strong, fulfilling relationships with my husband, my sons, my family, and my friends.
- To be a writer, writing about topics I enjoy and am interested in and getting paid fairly for my work.
- To spend time outdoors and to travel, doing activities I enjoy and that rejuvenate me, and sharing those experiences with friends and family.
- To create and maintain a comfortable and happy home environment - both physically and financially - that contributes to happiness, comfort, and loving relationships.
- To be as healthy as I can be and to take care of myself so that I can do the things I want to do.
- To give back, help other people, and be part of a community.
Each year, I set (or adjust or keep) objectives and then specific, measurable targets to help me move toward those goals. The process is explained here.
I'll skip the details and just share some of what I achieved (or not) in 2019:
Improved on or Did Well in 2019:
- Lots of time with my husband - we met my goals for date nights, walks*, and traveling together.
- Time with my adult sons AND especially, a trip (relaxing and at our own pace with daily naps!) to St. John, USVI, with them to celebrate our 30th anniversary.
- Visiting new blogs.
- Writing and editing a book and preparing it for publication (my goal was to publish the book in 2019, but computer problems prevented that in December. Finding a New Normal: Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness will be published this month!).
- Walking* 4x per week (this is possible thanks to treatments for Orthostatic Intolerance and for Immune System Dysfunction, which have both greatly improved my ability to tolerate exercise and exertion).
- Muscle building* 3-4 times per week (lying down to keep my heart rate low, plus plenty of breaks).
- Getting together with friends each week (most of the time)
- Writing and working on my writing projects more often
- Getting outdoors more often (my goal is daily, even if it's just 10 minutes lying on our deck)
- Daily yoga (brief 15 min session, all done on the floor)
Needs Improvement:* NOTE: My exercise is NOT Graded Exercise Therapy (GET), and I am ONLY able to exercise because of several treatments for my ME/CFS that have eased the exercise intolerance somewhat, including treating Orthostatic Intolerance and treating immune dysfunction. I still definitely have limits and use a heart rate monitor to help stay within my limits and prevent post-exertional crashes. Other treatments have helped as well - you can read my full summary of treatments that have been most effective for my son and I, allowing us to live active lives again.
- Stay connected to my mom and stepmom and stay in touch with long-distance friends.
- Freelance writing (which took a backseat to my book in the 2nd half of the year).
- Create e-mail lists for my blogs.
- Go camping more.
- Decluttering at home.
- Trying new treatments for myself - my focus in 2019 was 100% on my son's health.
- Resting when crashed - a continuing struggle for me, to listen to my body.
- Have more fun! Another one that pops up every year. I need to take more time off and probably reduce my load.
I am a data junkie, and find it very helpful to track several different aspects of my illness. This helps me to see if I am doing better or worse and also helps me to evaluate whether new treatments are helping. So, in 2019:
- My average exertion level (on a 1 to 5 scale) was 3.8 (drumroll, please ...) - my highest ever since getting sick! Woohoo!! Given the treatments that have helped me to greatly reduce and almost eliminate post-exertional crashes, I know that this higher level of exertion means that I can tolerate more, not that I was ignoring my limits and crashing - see below).
- Overall, my "how I felt" average was 2.4 (a 1 to 5 scale where 1 is great and 5 is badly crashed). This is decent, though not quite as good as my two best years, 2016 and 2017. There was a LOT of stress this year from my son's downturn in health, so I'm sure that was a factor.
- I was crashed (a 4 or a 5 on my scale) just 5% of the time! This is absolutely great, though not my best year ever, which was 2017, with just 3% crashed. In contrast, my worst years--before finding effective treatments--were in the 25% range, meaning I was unable to function and couch-bound a quarter of the time (and not so great the rest of the time, either!). That 5% crashed this year mostly occurred in two periods, when I got viruses and/or bronchitis (which used to happen 5 times a year, so again a huge improvement), and I had many months with 0 crash days. This measurement translates to a HUGE improvement in my quality of life. I no longer crash badly due to over-exertion, and I rarely crash from exposure to infections. Again, you can read my full summary of treatments that have been most effective for my son and I.
How do I know all this? Like I said, I like data! I keep track of how I feel each day on a 1 to 5 scale (1 being great & 5 being badly crashed/bedridden), as well as my exertion levels (also 1 to 5, with 5 being most active). I just jot those numbers on a calendar at the end of each day, along with any unusual symptoms, new treatments, etc. So, I've been tracking these numbers, with monthly and yearly averages, since I first got sick in 2002. I also look at % of time spent crashed (a 4 or 5 on my scale). This data also helps me to tell whether a new treatment is helping. If you're not as analytical as I am (I suspect few people are!), you can just jot down the numbers and notes at the end of each day and use it to see patterns in push-crash, whether a new treatment is helping or not, and other information to help manage your illness day-to-day.
Objectives and Targets for 2020
With my process, my Lifetime Goals mostly stay the same, but my specific objectives and targets may change from year to year (or even month to month).
Many of my objectives and targets do stay the same from year to year, like date nights with my husband, time with my friends, resting when my symptoms flare, etc. My writing goals for 2020 are significantly different, with the book being published (and another in the works, on ME/CFS treatments), but I won't bore you with all those details.
Here, I will just highlight the objectives and targets for 2020 under my Health goal:
1. Try New Treatments (this is an objective every year - I never stop searching for things that will help my son and I to improve our health & our ability to function). I was entirely focused on my son in 2019, after he pretty much hit bottom and moved back home in May (you can read more about his new symptoms, diagnoses and treatments here). That means I sort of ignored my own health, maintaining the treatments and routines I was already doing but not trying much new for myself.
2. Take Care of Myself:
- Rest when symptoms flare (3 or higher on my scale)
- Do 2 quiet things just for myself each week (no multi-tasking!)
- No computer after 7 pm
- Do 2 fun things each week that are not TV
- Take one "day off" each month
- I am continuing my goals of 10 min of yoga each morning, walk 4 times a week, and do some muscle work (usually lying on the ground to keep my HR down) 4 times a week. I had some tough times in 2019 when I couldn't do much due to back and shoulder pain, so I am working my way back to where I was. I have successfully improved both strength and stamina these last few years!
- I am going to try again at doing a longer yoga session (30 min) once a month. I did not do this as planned in 2019, but I really think it will help with flexibility and my ongoing back issues.
- Walk a 5k - yes, really! A friend with ME/CFS inspired me, and I am ready. It was a goal in 2019, but again, my focus was on my son and by the time I was ready, it was too cold out. in the spring!
We are each at a very different place in our illness journeys, even when we have the same illness, so your goals, objectives, and targets will necessarily be different than mine, but I hope that sharing my goals and progress with you will inspire you to embark on a similar process for yourself. This helps me to actually achieve my goals, instead of looking back at the end of each year and realizing that nothing changed (which is what I used to do!)
Have you set any goals or objectives for yourself for 2020? How was 2019 for you? What process do YOU use at the start of a new year? Please share in the comments below!
Here's to a happy & healthy 2020 for us all, no matter how you approach it!