Should A Person With Chronic Illness Make New Year’s Resolutions?

Every year I struggle with whether or not to set personal goals for the new year. Chronic illness and pain keep me from doing so many things. When accomplishing necessary daily tasks is a struggle, how in the world can I set large, significant goals that would be life-changing for me and my family? In the end though, I do end up setting goals, because there are things worth fighting for.


We all long for life to be better in one way or another. We all need hope that things can and will change. Goals paint a motivating picture of a better life moving forward.

“All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”  -T. E. Lawrence

If you don’t have any goals, you’re sure not to accomplish them. On the other hand, you increase your odds of reaching goals simply by having them.

Here are a few tips for accomplishing life-changing goals this new year:

  • Know your Why. This is your primary motivator. Visualize what you want to see happen—that’s your Why. It’s the reason you’re going to set a goal, work hard, pray, and discipline yourself. Because it’s worth achieving.
  • Write your goals down. It helps to write them by hand and see them with your eyes on a regular basis. Put the list where you can review it often.
  • Be realistic but also dream! Set goals that inspire and excite you. Make them big enough to challenge and motivate you when strength and vitality are waning. For those of us with chronic illness and pain we need to find a healthy middle ground (no pun intended). You don’t want to end the year having made good progress but feeling bad about yourself because your goal was set too high.
  • Break big goals down into bite-size pieces. Significant goals can be so overwhelming that we cower in their shadows. Don’t let this happen! Reduce the big goal, then reduce some more, and reduce some more, until you have a manageable piece to start on. It could even be a commitment to work on your goal just 10 minutes a day.
  • Be specific and measurable. Decide what your goal is, how you will accomplish it, and when. Timelines often help. You might be tempted to say “I’m going to get in shape this year.” But instead say, “I’m going to lose 30 pounds this year (2.5 lbs a week) by walking Monday-Friday from 12-12:30 p.m.” Getting specific helps you develop your plan and measure progress.
  • Be committed and prepare for some obstacles. Your health may be unpredictable. Your energy may come and go. Some days you may be bedridden. If you know that, build that expectation into your plan. Make allowances within your goal for what you will or will not do on your down days. This will help you to be realistic, avoid discouragement, and keep moving forward.
  • Start! Starting cannot be overrated. It’s often the hardest part and the most important step. As you sense progress, you’ll build greater momentum that helps you to stick with it.

One goal I’ve set for 2016 is to read 12 non-fiction books and 3 fiction books.

This New Year’s goal works for me because it is big enough to inspire and motivate me while also being reasonable. It’s specific and measurable and will help me accomplish my Why of personal development. I know that I’ll have down days that I’m not up to reading. But that’s okay.  I take advantage of audiobooks available on so that I can keep making progress even when I don’t feel well.

If chronic illness and pain keep you from wanting to set goals for the New Year, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Solicit help from people or technology. My wife is working with me on several other goals for the year. You may have someone in your life you can be accountable to as well. And there are so many online groups and message boards full of people who share the same goals—many of them you can join for free.

We need hope that things can and will get better in some areas, whether or not our health improves. As long as the future is bright, anyone can endure poor health. Set goals, make plans, sacrifice for them, and entrust them to God. Who knows the wonderful things 2016 has in store for you?

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3

          Question: What’s your biggest obstacle to accomplishing your goals for 2016? What’s been your biggest help in achieving them in the past?

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