Years ago, back when I first began my recovery from the injuries I suffered as a result of an auto accident, I learned about setting goals. Setting goals is an art. You can’t just blindly set a goal and expect to achieve it without a plan or a road map to help you find your way. It requires knowing yourself—your strengths as well as your limitations.
The first thing you have to do is define the word goal. A goal is not just something you want to do. You can’t simply say, “My goal is to go to the store today.” Going to the store is not a goal. It’s a step in the process of accomplishing a goal. To say, “I’m going to get the grocery shopping done today,” is an actual goal. This requires many steps. First, you clean out the refrigerator (which, for some of us, is an actual goal in itself, but we won’t go there now) by throwing away expired milk and the things in the back corner that have doubled in size and changed color. You then need to figure out what staples you need (throwing away the expired milk probably means it’s time to buy more). Then, if you’re like me, you think about your coming week and plan meals, snacks and lunches, as well as buying extra of the things you know your roommate will eat. You do this with paper and writing utensil in hand so you can make a list. The next step is to organize your list, putting the items in order according to where they’re located in the store—and for this you have to know your grocery store. Finally you make the journey to said store. Five steps (six if you include a financial juggle in there) to complete the main goal. The smaller steps are called mini-goals—and once you grasp the concept of mini-goals and incorporate the process into your life, you realize how incredibly useful they are.
I’ve recently set a pretty lofty goal for myself, which will require the utilization of quite a few mini-goals along the way. By the end of the summer, I plan to be rollerblading around Lake Calhoun. This is going to require a process of several steps. Along with sharing my process, I have some great examples—including the enthusiasm of Alex (my physical therapist)—of the support I’ve already received along the way.
Step one: Get some Rollerblades. This actually was a preliminary step—the thing that gave me the goal in the first place. My skates were given to me as a gift. On the surface, this gift could seem like a cruel joke—giving a physically handicapped individual a set of Rollerblades could be compared to giving a book to a person who is blind. But as I’ve said before, my friends don’t view me as handicapped, so their gestures are made as though I have no limitations at all. And, quite honestly, I viewed this as a turning point. It set off some bells in my head, like, here’s something I could do! It’s a physical activity I can add to my short list of things that are feasible for me. Over the past couple of years, I found out I can rock climb, I can canoe and I can hike for hours on rough terrain (I discovered that last year up in Grand Marais). Wow! Perhaps I’m not destined to be a slug, stuck watching reruns of “Beverly Hills, 90210.” This was the greatest gift anyone could have ever given me.
The next step was asking Alex if she a) thought this an attainable goal, considering my handicap, and b) would help me to achieve this goal. She was very emphatic about it, almost more excited than I was, it seemed. She said she’d never had a patient want something like this, and was glad to see somebody with a disability want to get out and live life with joy and gusto. I took that as yes.
Padding. I needed lots of padding. And here’s another example of support. I called home to tell my mother I was going to be doing this and to let the rest of the family know, and my brother e-mailed me almost immediately and said he wanted to buy me pads and a new helmet. Within ten days, the box had arrived. Matching knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and a shiny new black racing helmet. Okay, not only would I be blading, I’d look great, too! By now I was completely stoked! Step three completed.
I told Matt (my occupational therapist) of my plans, figuring he’d be able to offer insights, and he just grinned as wide as a clam and said with feeling, “When you get so you’re out there doing it on your own, let me know and I’ll go skating with you.” Not for therapy reasons, but just a social, hanging-out tour around the lake. I was just beaming at the range of support I was getting from every corner of my life.
It’s a worthy goal, I think. Anything that keeps someone active, in whatever capacity that individual can manage, is a good thing. And as the process continues, you can bet I’ll be chronicling my adventures, my accomplishments, my setbacks (i.e. BRUISES!)—taking you with me every step of the way. This is reality entertainment at it’s very best, folks. If I had a video camera, I would ¼ well ¼ umm, gee ¼ maybe not.
To be continued….