A person victoriously raises a fist at the summit of a mountain.

How To Accomplish Goals Despite Lupus

Last updated: February 2022

One of the most painful parts of getting sick with lupus was having to let go of my goals and plans. I mourned the loss of the life I had wanted to live. Over time, though, I realized that life with a chronic illness doesn't have to mean giving up on your dreams. With a little planning and a lot of flexibility, I've learned how to still accomplish what I want to in life while maintaining my health. Below are some lessons I've learned about goal setting and intentions that keep me healthy and happy:

Goals with flexible deadlines

In my life before lupus, the goals I set always seemed to have deadlines. For example, I would give myself 2 months to learn a new piece of music or a week to write a paper. When you are healthy, a deadline can be very effective in keeping you on track and focused on your goals. But when you live with the unpredictability of a chronic illness, you never know exactly how much time and energy you have to accomplish your goal. You might have a great week with minimal fatigue or pain. Or, you might have to spend the week in bed or reschedule your life around a doctor's appointment. Attaching a hard deadline to a task you want to accomplish can discourage you when you don't meet the deadline because your symptoms interfere. Instead of pushing yourself or giving up because you didn't meet your deadline, set a deadline much further in the future you think you need. Or, instead of setting a deadline at all, break your project into smaller tasks, then cross each small task off your list as you finish it. Don't give up on your dreams, but stop when you need to and regroup or strategize.

Sick days and lupus

Factor sick days or days to just relax into your schedule

If you are someone who gets excited about all the goals and projects you're working on, be careful not to overwhelm yourself. This can be hard to do, especially if you enjoy what you're working on and don't want to take a break. However, it's important to think long-term. Because I know that overworking can wear me out and send me into a flare, I'm careful to factor rest days into my schedule. Even though I'm excited about working on a project, I keep in mind that not being mindful of my health will further delay my reaching my goal.

Schedule mini tasks

Instead of large tasks, I schedule mini-tasks that take less than 5 minutes into my day. By setting a tiny goal for myself – for example, playing for 5 minutes on my viola and writing one sentence of an essay each day – I practiced viola for over 100 days in a row and wrote 17 essays. Best of all, I just played a quick scale or typed a sentence one day when I wasn't feeling well and didn't feel frustrated because I still met my goal.

Recognize your goals despite lupus

Out of every goal I've crossed off my list, what I'm most proud of isn't graduating from college or getting my writing published. It's surviving the most difficult year of my life. When I was 27, I was severely ill and bedridden with lupus. I spent the year relearning to walk, speak in complete sentences, and play the viola. Surviving a year that at many times felt unsurvivable is, in my mind, my greatest accomplishment. Sometimes success isn't a diploma or a promotion or even a baby. Sometimes success is just staying alive when it feels like your life is burning to the ground around you. It's rising from the ashes around you and understanding that after all that happened to you, you're still here. Remember that you are more valuable than anything you can ever achieve.

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