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Setting SMART Recovery Goals
For Best Results, Make a Plan and Stick to It
by David Dansereau
With determination and by being realistic, you can avoid
becoming discouraged and can reach your recovery goals after stroke. The first
step is to identify what you want to achieve and approach your goals using
Determine your goal and why you want to achieve it. Figuring
out “why” is important to stay motivated and to make sure you’re on the right
track. For instance, if you gained weight during stroke recovery, your goal
might be to lose 10 pounds.
“Why” you plan to lose 10 pounds can be to have more energy
and move your extremities easier.
Exercising to lose weight can also help your body relearn
ways to stay active for longer periods of time.
Once you’ve achieved your initial goal, you’ll feel ready to
strive for the next goal. Do you need to lose another 10 pounds? Or maybe you
will choose to focus on another area of recovery, such as improving balance.
You’ll want to set measurable benchmarks to gauge your
daily, weekly and monthly progress. Often, you’ll be surprised how far you’ve
come, even if it feels like you’re making small steps. For instance, if your
goal is to walk better:
- Create a log or home video of your walking
progress. Report the number of minutes walked each day, days walked per week,
distance traveled and any assistive devices needed.
- Record your mood and energy level to help remind
you how you felt when you reached a new walking level or hit a plateau.
By measuring your goal, you can tell what is working and can
make adjustments to what isn’t.
Planning action steps will provide the blueprint to the end
goal. For instance, to walk better, figure out:
- What specific walking workout is best for
- How often should you be doing the workout?
- Which strength and flexibility exercises should
be performed for which muscles?
- What foods provide the best energy for your
Consult with your health care professional to develop five
to eight small action steps to lead you in the right direction.
Keep your goals within the realm of possibility or you will
get discouraged. Let’s go back to the weight loss goal of losing 10 pounds. If
you give yourself one week to lose the weight it is not only unrealistic but
could be unhealthy. If you are attempting to reach a rehabilitation goal in a
short time frame, you will only increase the level of stress and possibly lose
sight of why you started the goal process.
Set a time frame for your goal and stick to it . . . and for
that matter, stick it to something. You can:
- Write a goal down on paper.
- Put it on your calendar, post it to your
refrigerator or stick it to the bathroom mirror: make sure it’s somewhere you
can see it often.
- Watch the video you created of your goals to
reaffirm the process and assess whether you’re on the right track.
Without a time frame, your goal will only be a wish. A
recorded timeline will help you keep your focus. Don’t just wish for it, live
Here are My Smart Moves:
Specific: Run the Boston Marathon in 2009 as the ultimate
challenge/sign of my physical recovery.
Measurable: I started with walking and measuring my distance
by telephone poles then eventually miles once I was cleared to try running
again. I kept a training log and had a local TV station do a segment about my
plan to run the marathon. This served as a great motivator as I could replay
the movie when I was having doubts. (See it at
Action-Oriented: I joined the stroke awareness group Tedy’s
Team to help stay on track. A running coach planned out specific goals for the
team as we built up our mileage for race day.
Realistic: I had run the Boston Marathon before my stroke,
but I was much younger. Yet, I could picture crossing the finish line in
Boston. For me, this was a realistic goal.
Time Frame: I gave up junk food, party invitations and
family plans to make time to train, often at 4 a.m. before work.
Did I meet my goal? Yes, I successfully ran the 2009 Boston
Can you meet your goal? Absolutely, if you’re determined and
Lights , camera, you ’re the action
Making a movie of your goals helps the subconscious mind – your emotional side – think in pictures.
The benefits of a movie dedicated to stroke recovery:
- Keeps track of success and failure by recording
- Helps you view before/after results of therapies
or stroke recovery tools.
- Helps motivate and increase adherence to goals.
- Provides a valuable record to show your doctors,
therapists and, yes, perhaps even your health insurance provider, as they
follow and plan your recovery.
Turn your goal into a success movie to help motivate you!
David Dansereau, MSPT,
is a physical therapist and private practitioner in Providence, R.I. He also is
a stroke survivor and author of Smart Moves Guidebook and Smart Moves 7-Day
Nutrition Action Guide. Learn more by going to my-physical-therapy-coach.com.
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