To start the goal-setting process, first write down three questions:
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to go?
- How am I going to get there?
Figuring out where you are is critical. Start by assessing your current skills and assets. In the context of chronic pain, this step entails gaining an understanding of your problem and what you can do about it. It’s the only way to move forward.
The second answer, where you want to go, has to be specific. The answers, “I just want to get rid of my pain”, or “I just want my life back” are not helpful. They lack any type of direction or purpose. It’s critical to think about your answer carefully and either regain your previous direction in life or establish a new one based on your current situation. If you continue without a compass, you are giving your life over to your pain.
For number three, how are you going to get there, you need a plan. First, consider a business that had no direction or plan. There would be no focus of energy, and lots of anxiety and frustration. It’s the same for you. Removing those distractions (anxiety and frustration) can have a significant calming effect. So not only is your nervous system calmer, but you are able to pursue the treatments that will calm it down even more.
It is common in our culture to feel that if you had more of “X,” you would be happier. “X” can include more money, better-behaved children, nicer boss, etc. It can also include “less pain.” I don’t disagree that good circumstances are better that bad circumstances. However, many if not most circumstances are beyond our control. In Eastern cultures, it’s often the other way around. If you can first attain a peace of mind, regardless of your circumstances, then you will have the energy to create the life that you want. You must follow your vision and steadily work towards attaining it.
Physicians have a tendency to get into this type of endless delayed gratification mode. We are always trying to fend off endless stresses with some vague feeling that if enough of our circumstances are right, we will be happier. Every day brings on a new set of pretty intense stressors. That’s why I’ve written down a phrase to myself, “Don’t let anyone or anything, anywhere, anytime, or anyplace take away my ability to enjoy my day.”