Goal Setting and the NTM/Bronchiectasis Patient

Posted on December 03, 2021   |   
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This blog post was written by Katie Keating, RN, MS, patient advocate and reviewed by the Bronchiectasis and NTM Content Review and Evaluation Committee.

Tis that time of year when we are setting goals and preparing for the year ahead. I hope and pray that this new year will be a turning point for the coronavirus and other aspects of our lives. We are surviving the pandemic and must acknowledge that we all have a purpose, whether big or small. So, here’s to setting goals for 2022.

Goals are measurable milestones that are established to indicate the success of a plan. Short-term goals are actionable. They can be accomplished in a limited period of time, and frequently lead to achievement of a long-term goal. Long-term goals are the ultimate results desired when a plan is established or revised.

When setting goals, consider what do you treasure in life? What are you really trying to change? What are the pros of making a change? What are the pros and cons of staying the same?

Set SMART goals

The SMART acronym makes it easy to remember the ideal characteristics of a goal.

Specific — You have a better chance of meeting a goal when you can answer the following six “W” questions about the goal: who, what, where, when, which, and why.

Measurable — A goal is measurable when you can answer questions to show progress and know when it is accomplished. For example, if you have a goal of being more active you could measure your activity by steps with a pedometer.

Attainable — Goals should have small, doable steps planned out that will allow you to attain the goal.

Realistic – Determine if the goal is in alignment with what you value in your life. Unrealistic goals may set you up to feel like a failure.

Timely — Be realistic in setting your timeframes. Some goals may take a week; others can take months or a year or more.

It is important to review your goals frequently. Be prepared to modify them as you achieve or encounter barriers along the way. Think of your list of goals as a care plan that can be adjusted as needed. Never look at the adjustments as failures, but necessary changes at the time.

Know why you are setting a goal

It helps to remember “the why” behind your goals. Focusing on what is meaningful to you can help you stay the course. Consider the following goals and examples of “the why”:

Nutrition Goal: To eat a nutritious, lung-healthy diet.
The Why: Eating right gives you energy for all your activities of daily living — even breathing! If you’re underweight, your body might have a harder time fighting illness. Eating smaller, more frequent (4-5) meals during the day gives your diaphragm more room to move, enabling you to breathe better.

Mental Health Goal: Make a serious commitment to identify negative patterns and change them. These can include goals for better self-care or for coping with stressors.
The Why: The stress and hardship of living with a chronic disease can cause emotional and psychological strain. People with chronic health conditions should be particularly diligent about looking after their mental well-being. Just like you can train your body to be stronger, you can train your thought patterns to be healthier if you practice and put in the time.

Social life and relationships goals: These goals should reflect your personality and how much social energy you have in a typical day or week. As goals, you may want to identify sources of support or want to get together more often with friends and family. Perhaps your social life would be enhanced by starting or joining a book club via zoom or going more frequently to public places such as parks where you can be around other people.
The Why: The ability to socialize and develop relationships is a vital part of being happy and healthy. This is especially important for people with advanced chronic disorders, who often feel isolated by their disease. Even the most isolated can benefit from interacting with others and building meaningful relationships via online platforms.

Home and organization goal: Create an environment free of symptom triggers by deep-cleaning your home with the assistance of others.
The Why: Irritants such as dust, mold, and pollen can make your respiratory symptoms worse. Getting rid of them makes your environment healthier.

Exercise goal: Engage in more physical activity.
The Why: Exercise improves your fitness and lung function. It can give you more energy and confidence, and help you improve sleep, anxiety, stress, and/or depression. Whatever exercise or activity you choose, ease into it with small steps.

Other categories of goals may include career related goals, spiritual goals, and financial goals.

Use objectives to reach your goals

Understanding the distinction between goals and objectives is important for effective goal-setting. Goals are the big things you want to achieve, while objectives are smaller steps along the path to reaching the goals. You can do this by breaking a goal down into smaller, simpler chunks and writing down the specific actions that will help you to achieve it. Your list of objectives should give you a foundation to start from —it is your action plan for how to reach your goal. You'll find that it's much easier to make progress when you have a written action plan with specific objectives.

Below are some questions you can ask yourself to help you target your objectives:

  • Do I have all the knowledge I need to complete my goal?
  • Do I need any specific equipment to reach my goal?
  • What tasks do I have to complete before I can reach my goal?
  • What kinds of tools or resources, including people for support, might be able to assist me in achieving my goal?

Example: Your goal is to get more physical activity. More specifically, your SMART goal is to exercise for 20 minutes at least three times per week. Now envision what working toward that goal would actually look like. What kinds of exercises could you do? Is there any specific knowledge or supplies you will need?

An example of an objective could be to do research on how to exercise safely or to ask your doctor for advice on beginning a new physical activity routine. Another objective could be to practice breathing exercises or to use mucus clearance techniques before you work out. Additional objectives could include putting the activity time and location on your to-do list, exercising on days when your energy levels are highest, or using a pedometer to count steps if you are walking.

Identify barriers to success

One common example of a barrier to self-management is airway clearance. You may not see immediate results when using a hand-held device or a compression vest but experts say that moving the mucus around lessens the chance of getting respiratory infections. It took me awhile to be compliant with airway clearance since I did not see immediate results.

It is important to identify any barriers that get in the way of your goal and develop a backup plan. You may be able to address obstacles of self-management through support from healthcare professionals and educational resources such as BronchandNTM360social.

In summary, goal setting provides us with a roadmap to get us to where we want to be. Objectives are the steps to our goal. We may not reach all of our goals; however, the action steps will make us feel productive and much better emotionally and physically while working towards a goal.

Achieving an important goal is a great feeling. Reward yourself once you achieve a goal! Are you ready to start accomplishing your goals in 2022? We would love to hear your goal achievement stories. Wishing you the very best in the year ahead.