When he was 15 years old, Elijah Stacy had a dream: to end Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), the disease that affects him and thousands of other people. So, he decided to start a nonprofit called Destroy Duchenne to support advancing gene-editing and gene-therapy technologies to find a cure for DMD.
To achieve his ambitious goal, Elijah started with a smaller goal: to build a social media presence for Destroy Duchenne. “We posted every other day about DMD and its possible cures, and news of our upcoming fundraisers,” he says. “Every day we attracted more Facebook friends. That raised my self-esteem, making me feel that I could actually accomplish what I set out to do, and that I could reach other goals, too.”
At a young age, Elijah had discovered the power of setting goals. “Goals give you the energy, purpose, and passion you need to keep progressing,” says Elijah, now 20 and a motivational speaker and author in Norco Hills, California. When living with a neuromuscular disease, progressing in life is not just about accomplishments, but also about improving wellness.
Specific and trackable goals give you a roadmap to your destination, whether that’s better sleep or a more satisfying job. When working toward a goal, whether you reach it or not, you’re likely to grow and
improve your overall wellbeing.
Prepare for the journey
“If you want to move forward, it’s important to know where you’re going,” says James Mentzer, a life coach in Newville, Pennsylvania, who has Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD). With a destination in mind, it’s time to employ your determination.
“You want an attitude of optimism, and an expectation that you’ll execute and accomplish the goals you’re setting,” says Jose Flores, a motivational speaker and author in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). If you don’t hit a goal the first time around, be willing to adjust your approach and keep trying.
6 areas of growth
“You want goals that make you feel good — in every area of your life — so you’re always working toward something,” Jose says.
The National Wellness Institute has defined six dimensions of wellness that help us find fulfilment in life: spiritual, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and occupational. When you’re setting goals and creating healthy practices, it can be helpful to consider each of these categories to make sure you are working toward a balanced life with intention and focus on each area:
Spiritual – Whether you draw strength from your religious faith, other forms of spirituality, or nature, find ways to connect through prayer, meditation, yoga, or being outdoors. “This gives you guidance, peace of mind, and joy,” Elijah says.
Physical – Eating wholesome foods, moving your body however you can, and getting proper sleep can help you achieve your other goals. “Taking care of your health keeps your mind clearer,” James says.
Emotional – Expressing and managing feelings in healthy ways can be a goal, itself. Finding joy and maintaining a positive outlook can help. “Wake up every morning thinking something good could happen that day, and do positive affirmations,” James says. Journaling and therapy are healthy practices that might help you improve your emotional health and reach your goals.
Social – Connection with friends, family, and community helps us thrive and excel. Vow to visit, call, email, and post. “Meet new people, volunteer, and participate in online events,” Jose says. MDA’s community events and National Connections program are great ways to meet others who have similar experiences.
Intellectual – Curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking enliven the mind. “Once a week, listen to an audiobook or podcast, watch a YouTube talk, or take an online class,” Jose recommends. Exploring the unfamiliar helps expand your knowledge and sharpen your problem-solving skills.
Occupational – Is your job or career fulfilling? If not, “go for that bonus or promotion, or find a new occupation,” Jose says. Another option is to change your perspective. “Make your work bigger than you by doing it for your family or to help others,” Elijah says. Also keep in mind that it is important to strike a balance between work and personal life.
10 ways to stick to it
One really big goal can be overwhelming. Consider breaking up large tasks into smaller ones that will drive you toward accomplishing your bigger goal. “For immediate results and momentum, set short-term goals,” Jose says. “As you crush those, tap into the mid-term ones. Before you know it, you’ve accomplished those big, rock-star goals.”
To stay committed to your goals, James offers these pointers:
- Accomplish a little each day.
- Journal your experience.
- Track your progress.
- Reward yourself as you go.
- Share your goals with friends.
- Find a goals buddy for mutual accountability.
- Join a support group.
- Hire a life coach.
- Take care of your health.
- Feed your optimism with positive self-talk.
- Find your “why”
Knowing the exact reason a goal is important to you and what meaning it holds can also be helpful in times when you feel like throwing in the towel.
Try this exercise: Ask yourself why you want to reach a particular goal. Then, take that answer and ask yourself why that is important to you. Take that answer and ask why again. Repeat five times to get to the deepest emotional reason behind wanting to accomplish your goal. Knowing that deep emotional tie can be incredibly motivating.
Break through the barriers
Some setbacks are unavoidable, such as health issues, family emergencies, and other unforeseen roadblocks. But watch out for common barriers we put in our own way: perfectionism, self-doubt, and poor self-image.
What if you don’t achieve a goal? “Realize that you tried, and you can try again,” James assures. “Maybe you need to change your goal, your approach, or your mindset.”
Regardless, there’s value in the journey. “Setting goals and trying to reach them can become a habit, so you’re more likely to hit them,” Jose says. “Also, you can apply the discipline and determination you developed toward other areas of your life.”
Revel in the benefits
Just by going through the exercise of setting goals, you’re likely to boost your general wellbeing. “If you’re mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially stronger, you’re winning,” Jose says.
In addition, reaching a goal brings added benefits. “You’ll have higher self-esteem and self-respect because you followed through,” Elijah says.
And you won’t be the only one who gains. “The personal growth and wellness you experience serves others,” Jose says. “You’re showing them that once you commit to going after your goals, you can make achieving them a reality in your life. And so can they.”
If you’re looking for resources to help improve your wellness, the MDA Resource Center may be able to help. Contact the Resource Center at 833-ASK-MDA1 or email@example.com.