This is the first of a two part series on goal setting for caregivers. This first post will make the case for why goal setting is important and totally worth doing. The second post will focus on how to set goals in a new way – a way you’ve never done before! Read both before you set any goals this year!
Making The Case For Setting Goals
I know that as a caregiver, your own goals are the LAST thing on your mind. Most caregivers go through periods of time where they essentially put their life on hold. When you are caregiving, you often have so little energy to devote to anything but just getting through the day. Setting a goal for your own life seems like a luxury. Or perhaps, you feel like because of your partner’s cancer, you simply can’t set any goals for yourself. You don’t know what will happen, you have no certainty anymore…
I’m going to make the case that even in the midst of caregiving, setting goals for yourself is EXACTLY what you need to do.
5 Reasons Why You Need To Set Goals As A Caregiver:
- Keeps you focused on creating your future
- It’s about growth and evolving, not happiness and success
- It’s going to be uncomfortable either way
- It’s something you do for YOU!
- You get to decide what you make your “failure” mean
Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these reasons.
- Goal setting keeps you focused on creating your future.
Setting goals for yourself gives your brain something to focus on. This is way more important than most people realize. You may not think about it much, but you are always creating results in your life. Most of the time, you are just recreating the same life you’ve lived before. Without goals, there is no intention behind that creation. (read my post about Getting Off Auto-Pilot). When you set goals, it gives that creation a focus. It gives meaning and purpose to your efforts. Subconsciously you will be on the lookout for ways to realize your goals when you have set them in your mind.
Look at it this way. You will be creating things in your life this year no matter what. You will either be recreating more of the life you have always lived. Or, you can focus some of that creative effort to grow and evolve your life. Growing and evolving is just as important when you are caregiving as at any time in your life. You may have a few different challenges because of it, but it’s still 100% worth the effort.
- Setting and working toward goals is about growth and evolving, not happiness and success.
The mistake most people make when they are goal setting and the reason so many of you are afraid to set any goals is that you believe achieving that goal will make you happier. That is what I used to believe for years. I would set the goal of losing 15 pounds because I believed once I lost that weight, my life would be so much better. Or, once I move into a bigger home, I would be so much happier. Once I got a higher paying job, it would be so much better.
The fallacy here is that it is not the achieving of the goal that brings happiness or success. I know that is counter to every message we get in our society. However, despite the messages we are taught, our emotions don’t come from the things in our life. They come from how we think. Period.
So, if you’re not going to actually be happier, then why set any goals at all?
Because by setting goals and striving to achieve them, you will become different than you are today. If you put earnest effort into trying to achieve that goal, you will be forced to grow and evolve. Growing and evolving is what will bring joy to your life.
- It’s going to be uncomfortable either way.
I know that setting goals will make you nervous and uncomfortable. Some of that discomfort comes from believing you have usually let yourself down in the past, so why would this time be any different? You may also shy away from letting yourself dream, especially when your life is extra challenging as a caregiver. It may feel like you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Or maybe it just sounds like more work and you simply don’t have the energy right now.
I get it. I felt all of that too.
But here is my point. If you are a person who likes to grow, who once did set goals, who does have dreams even if they are buried, then NOT setting goals will feel uncomfortable too. You will feel like you are stagnating. You will want to blame it on your partner’s cancer, or on not having enough certainty in your life because of his health. Whatever you blame it on, you will feel the pain of stagnation in your own life. You will feel hopeless, like there is nothing to look forward to.
Not growing is painful and uncomfortable. So, if you’re going to feel uncomfortable, it may as well be from the challenges of growth! (Check out this post: Growth or Stagnation – Where Are You?)
- It’s something you do for YOU!
When you are caregiving, so much of what you do is for other people. You take on more responsibilities and have to pick up where your spouse can no longer help. In this environment it’s easy to lose yourself in the demands of the job. So many caregivers do this. They forego everything in their life. But it’s not sustainable or healthy.
When you set goals, it’s a way for you to be mindful that you have a life to look after too and it’s just as important as all the other lives you are looking after. Let’s be frank, you can’t control what happens with your partner and their cancer. Their life journey is no more or less important than your own. However, many caregivers forget this because it feels like their partner and their family needs them so much more. They lose themselves. And ultimately, when they find themselves again, they are either completely burnt out or full of resentment for what they felt forced to give up. If you have this tendency, then setting some goals for yourself will help you to establish healthy boundaries around caregiving so you don’t loose yourself in the process.
- You get to decide what you make your “failure” mean.
Another reason so many people stop dreaming about the future and setting goals for themselves is that they get tired of disappointing themselves. It’s too painful year after year to strive, only to fail. Why try? It’s much easier to not set any goals, that way you can’t be disappointed when you inevitably fail.
Most people do this because they set it up so that the goal itself is the objective. Only if the objective is achieved, is the process worthwhile. Can you imagine how many inventions we would not have in our lives if inventors gave up because they didn’t achieve their original objective? I think one of the most famous examples is Post-it notes, which I use regularly. The inventor was actually trying to make a very strong adhesive. Instead, he made something that stuck, but was super easy to unstick. Was that a total failure? Heck no! Post-it are a staple in most offices these days.
The point is, when you realize that what you achieve along the way toward striving for your goal is just as important, if not more so than actually achieving it, then you will have a whole different perspective of goal setting.
You don’t have to make it a bad thing that you didn’t achieve the goal you set. In fact, you get to decide what you want to make it mean. We are taught in school that failure is bad. However, in life, failure is how most of us learn the most important things. It is the striving for, the trying of new things, the attempt to do something that we haven’t done before that is beneficial. Achieving a goal for sure feels great, but what you learned along the way will stay with you for ever.
No More Excuses
For many people, caregiving becomes one more reason why they can’t live the life they want or go after their dreams. If you fall into that thinking, there will always be some reason you can’t go after your dreams. It may be your partner’s cancer now, but that will just change to something different in the future. Instead, choose right now, whenever you are reading this, to make this year different.
Goal setting can bring up a lot of emotions. A coach can really help you sort through all your drama so it doesn’t derail you. Don’t just live the same life over and over! Click here to schedule a free coaching consultation to see if my coaching program for caregivers is right for you.