Sunday, June 2, 2013

Problems with Goals

In January I set three goals to be finished by the end of June. I'm not going to achieve any of them. 

The first goal was something I thought I should do but realized I didn't want to do. I crossed it off my list. The stroke has taught me not to waste time on things I don't want to do.

I put the second goal on hold because another project came along that is equally important, but more time sensitive. Pre-stroke my solution to having multiple projects was to try harder and work longer. Post-stroke I don't have the stamina. Deadlines are now guidelines; stuff comes up, priorities shift.

My third goal was to re-learn how to ride a bicycle in preparation for an upcoming trip. I added training wheels to my bike and practiced pedaling at the gym. I improved, but I'm not ready. I now realize there is nothing I could have done to get the result I wanted in the timeframe allotted.

Expecting to regain a particular function within a particular period of time goes against my experience of stroke recovery. Muscles heal only so fast. Nerves grow only so fast. It's important to have goals. They get me out of bed and into action. But I need to be smart about the goals I set. When my goal is specific, I need to avoid deadlines. When there is a deadline, I need to frame the goal broadly, allowing for a variety of solutions.

The better goal for me is: By the end of June, figure out how to join my fellow travelers as they cycle through the French countryside.

Oh yeah — and, some day, learn to ride a bike … if I really want to.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to give us an update on life post-stroke.
    Your ability to frame your comments with positive bent is most helpful to those of us trying to figger out life in the stroked lane! For sure there is a paucity of help out here!
    Surely the French countryside will be glorious, especially if you can manage a few words of French, no matter how mangled. Bon Voyage!

  2. Thanks for this post. I also set goals that I have to revise. The important thing is to do our best and keep going forward - you are awesome!

  3. As long as we make gentle goals anything is possible. I try to view mine as palm trees, ready to bend and swing with any storm...thanks for your lovely update and I can't wait to hear about your French venture!!!!

    1. I love that image of the palm trees! perfect

  4. Goals are meant to be bent. Deadline- you don't die if you don't meet them.

    I prefer the term of flexible or fluid goal setting because any progress is a good thing. Prioritizing and reevaluating goals are necessary. By keeping goals fluid, I'm not disappointed if I do not reach it by a deadline. After all, the deadlines are self-imposed.

  5. Hi Marce
    In the Buddhist world we need to differentiate 'Buddhism' and 'Shouldhism'- you make a good distinction here,
    love joe x

  6. Thanks so much for alerting me to your goals' essay. It was very beneficial to read your ideas, especially right now. We traveled from LA to London recently, through 8 time zones. Nine days later we flew back to NYC through five time zones. So, where and when am I now? Good question!

    All the goals I had about getting the garden in shape and setting out the bird houses are still on the paper. I am enjoying the blue sky and the many bird songs, responding to you and other friends, and thinking about an afternoon nap.

    Someone who travels regularly to Indonesia told me that it's much easier to travel east, than west. Others recommended I take time out, nurse my cold, and be kind to myself. I'm following their advice.

    I know you'll figure out how to travel with friends through the lovely French countryside and I look forward to hearing wonderful stories of your adventures.

    Much love,

  7. Goals were the focus of a huge number of my occupational therapy appointments. It is NOT easy but sure worth trying. It is all about moving forward and living a life where you can feel content and maybe proud of what you accomplish.

    Check out some of the bike stores and see what they have to offer there are big differences for how they ride and stability according to my bike selling son. I have not managed to ride a bike yet.. not even with training wheels but I might give it another shot this summer.

  8. Your post made me think about the stroke survivors I saw give up when I started working as an OT in 1970. For my mother's generation the average life expectancy was 55. Why work hard when you have so little time left? For people my age the average life expectancy is 68. We have the luxury of time to torture ourselves. My May has been insane with too many projects I can't finish when I said I would. I've lost sight of the fact that I've accomplished more than I thought was possible after a stroke. Thanks for the head check.

  9. I've been trying to blog about goals, but with your wonderful post, maybe I don't need to :)

    I also find my goals--especially the physical ones--do not come on demand. I've been trying to play a triad on the piano since 6 months after my stroke. I'm still working on it.

  10. I had to constantly change my goal of riding a bike, it took 2.5 years and multiple adjustments of what needed to be done.

  11. Selecting the right goals for yourself is really important, and knowing when the goal is no longer important helps you to move forward with a more meaningful goal. It's great to not hear despair in your tone as you adjust your focus.

    Would a trike work for you....or is it the peddling/something else getting in the way? I had a pretty miserable failure on my bike and it has me considering a trike at some point. I thought I would be fine....I wasn't and it was really dangerous...lucky I didn't get hurt!

    Maybe you could hire a "driver", a sort of taxi bike person to help you travel along with your friends....heck, sounds more fun to enjoy the French countryside with a glass of wine in hand anyway :). Or maybe you could rent some sort of motorized scooter.

    Either way, enjoy your vacation. It sounds wonderful!