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Setting Goals Without Fears When You Live With Chronic Illness

With 2019 ending, it’s easy to feel like time is passing by quickly, and we can wonder if any of those goals or resolutions we set at the start of the year are coming together. That is often an even larger concern when you are living with a chronic illness because we may already have some self-doubt and fear about not achieving goals. As someone living with chronic illnesses, I understand how we put this pressure on ourselves because we often fear our health setbacks will be the demise of our goals.

After a sports injury ignited my chronic illnesses a decade ago, I worked hard to find the balance of striving for success while maintaining my “new normal” of health. But as the years continued, I felt the “what ifs” creep into my mind. That worry if I would be more successful or happier if I never got injured and had the subsequent health constraints that are sometimes part of my day-to-day life.

But something quickly happened that turned my mentality on its head.

I discovered a young adult chronic illness advocate YouTuber, someone who would become a friend and future philanthropy supporter of my nonprofit, InvisiYouth Charity. In one of their advocacy videos, they mentioned they only started to feel a sense of serenity and accomplishment in their life when they took the negative stigmas of “chronic illness life” out of their mindset. After watching, it was as if a light bulb went off and that guilt I put onto myself seemed so obsolete.

Why was I judging myself for things I couldn’t control?

Why was I automatically assuming if I had to adjust my goals for life, I was ruining my dreams?

Why did I look at my dreams as out-of-reach because they weren’t going to be on the same timeline as my “healthy/non-disabled” friends?

This is the truest fact for life with chronic illness/disability, and has become one of the major pillars of InvisiYouth’s mission: a life with chronic illness and a life of success/happiness are not mutually exclusive. I can live every day with my chronic illnesses and still be happy and successful. My life goals aren’t lesser than others’ just because my health isn’t the stereotypical norm.

There is a framework in the media and society that if you have a chronic illness or disability, people must feel either sympathy for your struggles or be inspired by your daily act of just living. That negative connotation can cause the chronic illness/disability community to view our goals as harder to reach. And while yes, there are certain things I cannot do any longer because of my health, that doesn’t mean I cannot adapt, take a few more steps and add a bit more time to still achieve my dreams.

One of the best life lessons I’ve learned is somewhat of an analogy to cooking. Life shouldn’t be a shot in the pan, it should be a slow burn, allowing all the flavors of our goals to marinate.  We don’t need instant gratification or a microwave fast-track to achievement. We don’t need to scale our wins in life based on what others can achieve.

Let your goals and dreams take their time to reach their full potential, and when you get out of that negative mindset and become proud of your life with chronic illness/disability instead of being angered by it, that is when serenity can be found.

So now, as I look at all my goals — personally, professionally, and with InvisiYouth Charity — as we end 2019 and head into 2020, I won’t look at the unmet goals with sadness or worry. Instead, I will let it fuel my fire to figure out new ways to adapt my steps and continue moving forward.

This story originally appeared on Diversability.

Getty image by Patronestaff.