Have you ever felt like because of this life’s uncertainty and brokenness, you don’t even want to attempt to set a goal because it’s feels too risky to hope for something to go the way you plan?
Living the chronic illness life changes the way you set goals. Goal setting with a chronic illness, or any uncertainty for that matter, can bring difficult waters to navigate. How I set goals nowadays is drastically different than how I did when I was “healthy” or “able-bodied” if you want to put a label on it.
As a former able-bodied perfectionist, now disabled recovering perfectionist, I understand the struggles of:
- wanting to still work like someone who is able-bodied
- grieving through your Powersheets as you let go of goals and dreams that cannot be
- being afraid to dream because you can’t handle losing “another thing”
- wanting to live an intentional life with the spoons and abilities you still do have, but don’t know where to start
- not knowing what tomorrow holds – let alone the next quarter will hold – due to all the uncertainty your diagnosis brings which leaves you wondering if trying to set goals is even worth it
I am on my fifth set of Powersheets, and I cannot express how much trial and error I’ve endured learning how to use my Powersheets with my illness and not in spite of it. (Don’t know what Powersheets are? Start Here!) This has not been easy, and I almost gave up on using them because I felt that “they must not work for chronically ill people with unreliable bodies.”
I am so glad I was wrong. You know, it’s easy now for me to write the words “I am glad I was wrong,” but I had to fight to get here.
I had to learn how to best adapt my powersheets to my uncertainty and illness. Over the past 3 years, I’ve been learning how to build in space for grace into my goal setting. Now when I say grace here, I mean that I have given myself room for things to not go the way that I planned. Rather than be held back by the instability my body creates, I have learned how to work with the instability and uncertainty I face by living rooted in grace.
I know now that living out grace over guilt isn’t failing me it’s FREEING me! Through imperfect progress defined by good intentions and unchecked boxes, I’ve learned how to set goals in uncertainty, and I love goal setting again.My Powersheets allow me live an intentional life WHILE living the chronic illness life, and in this blog post I am going to show you parts of how I have done that, specifically in the Powersheets Prep Work.
There are a few mindsets that I stay anchored in when I am goal setting
- Stay faithful to your why behind your goals, and be flexible about how you achieve them.
- The amount of check marks and tasks that you complete do NOT equate to the value you bring to society or amount your worth.
- Give yourself more time than necessary for goal deadlines, and break down goals into extremely small action steps that allow you to work at a goal little by little
- In order to successfully accomplish your goals while living the chronic illness life that means that you live by the principle of trading goal guilt for God’s grace.
- Now the most important one:
He made me with this in mind.
God created me knowing my body would be this sick. My illness may stop me from doing what I felt like I was called to do with my life, but my illness is never going to keep me from doing what He has planned for me because He formed those plans and my calling with this illness in mind for this time.Cassie, Chronically Cultivating Season 2 Episode 12
Now in this blog post, I will be focusing on the adaptions I made to my Powersheets to help me cultivate an intentional life with my illnesses, but if you want to see my entire walkthrough of my prep work you can view it here.
In each of these adaptions, I will be sharing a mindset along with a practical application of adaption.
One more thing before we get started, I highly encourage you to go through these pages in order because there are in a specific order to help you uncover what matters most so don’t skip pages.
Cultivated Life Edition pages 10-11
These evaluations can be really hard and bring up a lot of grief and joy. As painful as this evaluation can be at times, it is crucial for you to be honest; because if we can’t be honest with ourselves we can be honest in our goal setting.
One of the things that I remind myself of, before starting these pages, is that: my best in one season might not be my best in another. Sometimes I even write that on the top of these pages so I don’t forget.
The first practical step that I take on these pages is changing the 1-10 scale on the areas of life that the given scale doesn’t fit or work for me. Remember your Powersheets are supposed to work for you, not the other way around. The given scale for this evaluation is, “1 means that you are not satisfied and want to see bug changes. 10 means things couldn’t be better.” Now there is NO way with a chronic illness that this given scale is going to work. So I made my own! My scale this year for this area was: “1 meaning I am not able to do my best and need more help. 10 means I am able to do my best and trust my team.” I only changed the scale for the health box this year, but know you can change the scale for one area or every area – these are your Powersheets make them work for you.
The second practical set that I take is at the end of page 11. At the end of the evaluation, you are instructed to note what three areas of your life you most want to cultivate in the year ahead.I put a star sticker on my three top areas. My health has to always be a priority whether I like it or not so whether I decide to make that my ‘fourth area to circle” or I don’t mark it, I know it will still be an area I have to cultivate. The three areas that I am choosing to cultivate this year outside of my health are: Spiritual + Personal Growth, Finances, and Work.
Side note: if there is a box that doesn’t apply to you (“work” and “recreation” didn’t apply me in some seasons) you can always change the box to something that better suits you. Just stay honest in these pages.
Get Ready to Break Free, Who I Really Am, and Moving Past Fear pages 14-15
Disclaimer: these pages may make you cry, and that’s okay. These pages are always the hardest for me as they require the most honesty and make me literally face my worst enemy – my self-doubting self. While they are the hardest, every single year the Lord has revealed a huge truth to my heart that will carry me through the rest of the prep work and into the coming year. Once we distinguish the truth about who God has made us to be, and we lay down the lies we’ve believed about yourself and the fears we have, we can move forward. I lose so much weight every time I complete these pages.
The mindset and practical application here is to be honest and take your time. If this day takes you a couple hours or a couple days (like it does for me) let it. Your honesty and vulnerability will produce so much good fruit for the year ahead.
Big Picture Vision + Living It Out This Year pages 18-19
So for 2022 Cultivate What Matters changed these pages drastically, but these pages still make me tense up. When you have a progressive and degenerative disease, you know that life is going to continue to change and it is really hard to know what tomorrow holds let alone the rest of the upcoming year or your life. BUT this year, God revealed the 2022 Truth when I went through pages 14-15 (the pages I talked about above) that changed how I looked at my goal setting.
My Mindset, pg 18:
“I am allowed to dream (and dream BIG) because my dreams are safe in His hands.” Now this is a huge deal for me because I can honestly say that I haven’t “dreamed” since 2019 (that was when I was in my 2nd set of powersheets and almost gave up on Powersheets and goal setting all together.) So even talking about dreaming again shows the healing that God has done in my heart. It was true in 2019, it’s true now, and it will be true in years to come: we can dream because our dreams are safe when we give them to God and leave them in His hands.
Practical Application, pg 18:
The practical way I used this mindset was to, well, dream. I also literally wrote that on the top of the page because I needed those words. I will say that I did still cautiously dream, but it was a huge milestone marker for me for sure. Every box I worked through, whenever I hesitated I read that Truth and kept going.
Then you have page 19 which is connected. You take what you have written on the Big-Picture Vision (page 18) and plan out what steps you can take to get closer to those big picture dreams. This page made my stomach tense up even more than the page before so I took my own advice.
I believe the words I share with you and truly practice what I preach so I reminded myself of the foundation I built Grace + Goals on: you can cultivate an intentional life, right where you are in the middle of the mess, no matter how uncertain the season. I also kept my mindset from page 18 fresh in my mind as well.
Little by little does add up so that I how approached this page. The format I used was simple. I used the top gray line to write a potential action step or thought in how I can get closer to my big picture vision and used the rest of the white box as a space to pray and give my dreams and year to Him.
My Cultivated Year page 21
This page is very straight forward, the only thing I did was add to the instructions “when I am not in a flare or recovering” as you can see below:
Imagine Your Best Year Yet page 23
Now this page and I wrestle every year, because this page always sets me back. For many this page, brings all their presswork and vision together, but because it doesn’t tend to help me I wanted to repurpose it.
My Mindset: build grace into my year and my goal setting.
This year is going to hold some really hard things and tons of uncertainty so rather than imagining “my best year” I wanted to write my future self a reminder for the year ahead. So I used some of the Blooms Tending Tape and Cultivate’s Letter Stickers to rename the page: A Reminder for the Year Ahead. I didn’t change any of the prompts and still pulled from my prep work pages. You may be thinking, “Cassie, you didn’t change anything other than the title so how is this different?” Well to answer that, I changed how I answered the prompts. It’s meant to be a declaration about you meeting all of your goals and having your best year yet. Mine is still a declaration, but not a declaration of action rather a declaration of grace-filled intention by taking control of the only thing I can control – my mindset (Lord knows I can’t control my body lol.)
Now in person these gel pens look so freaking pretty, but photographed they are a bit hard to read so I am going to share the typed version here:
My name is Cassie. I am His beloved. I am capable of change and I’m deciding that I CAN. The areas of my life that most need to be cultivated are my heart. our marriage, and my ministry. In the past, I have overcommitted and ignored my body, but now, I’m ready to stay brave and live with my challenges rather than work in spite of them. My legacy starts today. In the big picture, what will matter is how well I loved the Lord + my people and what I did with the limited energy God has given me. These traits will shine in me as I trade control for confetti and cultivate an intentional life right in the middle of the mess and the uncertainty. I’ll start living my big picture vision this year by living in His grace and ditching goal guilt + dreaming with open hands. I will do this little by little and with big leaps along the way. I want to make what matters happen because He made me with this illness in mind and I want to see what He has planned for me even when the how to my why changes. I will live this by saying yes to one day at a time living and saying no to perfection, assuming, and my own strength. I will let go of how I think my goals should be achieved and fill my life with more of His grace and confetti. I’m ready – let’s do this!
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
These pages I really didn’t do anything real adaptions, but I think this page is worth noting. It is a new edition to the Powersheets Prep Work, and I feel like it was made for me – and you! It was so helpful to get out in front of the challenges I will face. I just loved these pages and hope you will too!
I have a love/hate relationship with the Yearly Overview page. I don’t find it helpful for me to place my goal plans here so I repurpose it each year, the photo here is from last year when I used it to plan my garden for the year, but you can also use it for: Bible verses to memorize, study, or focus on, encouraging notes to your future self to look back on, or fun activities or seasonal/monthly traditions. This year I am using it to plan out Grace + Goals details.
Some Helpful Tools to Add More Grace to Your Goal Setting
As we close out this guide I wanted to leave you with three other tips that have helped me continue to adapt my goals and note my progress while living the chronic illness life.
Distinguish the Couldn’t from the Didn’t
When I use an x it means that my body or situation prevented me from that action, and when I leave it blank it means I chose to or didn’t prioritize that habit that day. It helps me get a better idea about whether it wasn’t the right goal for me that month or if I just didn’t follow through. This has helped me give myself more grace
Celebrate Every Tiny Victory
Tracking one victory a day has changed my life because even if I get to the end of the quarter and I didn’t accomplish what I had hoped, I can see that I still accomplished 90 victories. This is a HUGE part of my success and mindset shift. I encourage you to download the quarterly CETV (Celebrate Every Tiny Victory) wildcard here from the Grace + Goals Wildcard Library (there is also a monthly tracker if you would prefer to give more details and use one each month.)
Pilot Frixion Erasable Pens
I have 5 types of Friction erasable pens- I seriously COULDN’T live without them or goal set without them. They are great when you are learning to hand letter, but the reason I put them in here is because they are also great for those with uncertain lives. You can just erase something off your to do list or tending list if your body changes your plans on you, and if you write something wrong or mark something incorrect because of brain fog you can just erase it! I have gotten much better about leaving things unchecked or unfinished, but for a long time seeing all the things I couldn’t accomplish on my to-do lists or tending lists were a huge trigger for me. These helped me cope and honestly I still use them for everything. I have the colorful clicker erasable pens, the regular black clicker set, the gel pens, the markers, and the pastel highlighters.
I hope that this blog post helps you live the chronic illness life with intention and even joy. Feel free to join me on instagram for more goal setting tips and encouragement 🎉
In case you didn’t know, here on Living the Chronic Illness Life you now have access to the
which helps you tailor your goal setting and powersheets to seasons of uncertainty. You can find all the info here!
The 2022 Powersheets are sold out, but there is so much of the collection still available! I am #teamblooms this year and in this 2022 Collection my top three must haves are: the Goal Setting Sticker Book, the Snap In Wildcard Holder, and the SeaGlass Cultivate Tote Bag!
P.S. if you didn’t snag a set of 2022 Powersheets, keep your eyes out over the next couple months because typically you will see 6 month undated Powersheets Planner get added to the shop!
Cassie Nolin is a married spoonie who lives the chronic illness life with EDS + Co. (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and it’s comorbid conditions.) She challenges others to choose grace over guilt while goal setting, and is in ministry part time serving the online community through Grace + Goals and The Spoonie Study. She loves planting, confetti, hand lettering, and sharing the hope she has found in Jesus. Her blog, Living the Chronic Illness Life, is in the top 100 chronic illness blogs and in 2019 she launched her podcast, Chronically Cultivating, where Cassie encourages women to live authentic and intentional lives through their diagnosis’ not in spite of them. She is on a mission to help other women learn how to trade guilt for God’s grace and control for confetti! You can learn more about her at www.livingthechronicillnesslife.com
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