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Setting Goals When Challenged With Arthritis

12 Steps for Setting Goals


Updated December 31, 2012

If you persuade yourself that you can do a certain thing, provided this thing is possible, you will do it, however difficult it may be. If, on the contrary, you imagine that you cannot do the simplest thing in the world, it is impossible for you to do it, and molehills become for you unscalable. ~ Emile Coue

Setting Goals When You Have Arthritis

Goals are dreams with deadlines. ~ Stephen Grellet

So much changes over the course of time when you have arthritis. Your abilities become less and inabilities become more. How you do things or why you don't do things is determined by the disease. It is easy to let the arthritis gain more and more control over your life. The problem can become so deep-rooted that you (the person living and coping with arthritis):

Setting Goals Can Serve You Well

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. ~ Japanese Proverb

Being goal-less can be a serious problem. Setting goals:

  • can focus your energy
  • can reduce distractions
  • get you looking for new solutions
  • keep you striving
  • can give meaning to your existence

How To Begin Setting Goals

Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another. ~ John Dewey

A goal is the first step in a strategic plan devised for personal betterment. A self-change process begins with setting goals. Certain questions need to be considered when determining how to attain the desired end result:

  • What do you need to give up, reduce, or eliminate?
  • What do you need to increase or substitute for the unwanted thought, feeling, or behavior?
  • What change should be given priority and done first?
  • Is the goal realistic?
  • What are reasonable daily sub-goals and long-term goals, and are they consistent with each other?
  • How quickly should the changes be made, cold turkey or gradually?
  • Are the goals in keeping with your basic values?

Be Specific When Setting Goals

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. ~ Henry Ford

Goals should be stated in terms of specific behaviors at specific times under specific conditions. "I want better self-esteem", or "I want to lose weight" are admirable statements which reflect your feelings and understanding of what you want, but they do not incorporate a plan to help accomplish the feat. Sub-goals such as "I will eat 1000 calories a day" or "I will not eat dessert" seem more attainable because they form a series of gradual steps.

Setting Goals: An Example

Example of a plan to achieve a self-help goal:

General Goal: I want to become more active.


  • I want to go out more and socialize.
  • I want to entertain more in my home.
  • I want to develop a new hobby.

Specific Subgoals Within Each Part:

  • I will go to a movie every Saturday night.
  • I will invite friends over for dinner once a week.
  • I will get a needlepoint kit and learn the craft.

Remain Flexible When Setting Goals

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~ Author Unknown

Due to the unpredictable nature of arthritis and the possibility of unexpected flares, you should not be overwhelmed by the goals you set. You should choose attainable and reasonable goals and be willing to make last minute adjustments.

By virtue of the same aforementioned unpredictability, you should not give up your goals and should be willing to act on them when your arthritis seems under control.

Remember These 12 Steps For Setting Goals

  • Assess areas of your life which can be improved.
  • Write down your goal.
  • Be sure the goal is realistic.
  • Plan how you will achieve your goal.
  • Goals can be short-term and built upon, or long-term.
  • Remain focused - never lose sight of your goal.
  • Get support from others who are also working on self-improvement.
  • Act on your goals daily and especially when arthritis is in control.
  • Be confident - your goal is attainable.
  • If you have a setback, remain flexible. It doesn't mean your goal is beyond your reach.
  • Be energized by progress you have made towards your goal.
  • Hold yourself accountable for keeping with the plan.


Psychological Self-Help Chapter 2, Mental Health Net; Locke, Shaw, Saari, & Latham, 1981

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