By heatherericksonauthor.comThe Erickson Family

Realistic Goals: Resilience

Baby Steps for resilience

Realistic goals are an essential part of becoming resilient on a cancer journey. Unfortunately, too many people have unrealistic goals. This leads to frustration; frustration with others and frustration with themselves. Thankfully, with some time and practice, these habits can be changed.

Baby Steps toward Your Realistic Goals

Realistic goals start by realizing that life is made up of baby steps, more than grand leaps and bounds. If you’ve ever been a runner, you know that a person can sprint at high speed for a short distance, but they could never run a marathon at that same speed. They would quickly burn out. It’s all about pacing, to ensure they can go the distance.

Starting is Easy

In the beginning, we start with a lot of drive and energy. Much of it comes from the adrenalin. You get yourself mentally pumped up to reach a certain goal. But, if the goal is one that will be difficult to reach, that initial drive will eventually wear off. So having smaller, more realistic goals that you can reach can help you to utilize that initial energy. Then, once you’ve reached that goal, celebrate your victory and set a new one.

Constancy is Hard

This is especially true when you are facing a cancer battle. Some days, just getting out of bed can be a herculean task. Other days you feel energized and ready to face the world. And, it’s not just physical.  Your emotional well-being plays a huge role in your ability to stay consistent.  Setting realistic goals will help make this easier.

It is also important to be gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself like you would a friend, with compassion and understanding.  Too many people mentally beat themselves up for not reaching some arbitrary level of achievement each day. So often they don’t even have realistic goals, so it’s unfair to pour out that self-criticism.

Strengths Focused

Know what you can do now, not back before you were a patient or caregiver. Those are 2 different worlds. When life gets easier, you can add more things to your day. For now, look at each day as a fresh slate. Some days you will have more energy than others. With this in mind, use a system of “One Thing a Day.” When you look at your calendar, you should only have one big thing to do each day. It might be a doctor’s appointment or going to breakfast with a friend or cleaning the bathroom. Once you’ve achieved that realistic goal, give yourself permission to take the rest of the day off with no guilt attached. You can always have smaller goals that can be tacked onto a day but don’t feel guilty if you don’t get them done.

One hindrance to this is comparison. You see the things your friends are doing on social media and you wonder why you can only do this one thing each day before wearing out. One of my mottos is, “Comparison is the devil’s favorite weapon.” Don’t let him use it on you by comparing yourself to someone else.  It will only lead to frustration.

How do you ensure that your goals are realistic goals?

What is realistic for one person may not be for another. What you can realistically achieve will depend on your specific needs and abilities at that time. Often, as caregivers, we have to make decisions between things we would like to do, and things we must do as part of our caregiving role. There were times during the years when I cared for my husband when I stepped out of activities that I enjoyed. I did this because I wasn’t able to do them during such an unpredictable time. I moved those activities to my “Do Later” pile.

Measure actions as well as achievements

It’s important to recognize the things you do as you take steps toward your goals. These actions are goals in their own right. Imagine you are trying to attain a nursing degree. Every class, each semester, they are all goals. In fact, each test you take is a goal, as well. Every hour you spend studying is a goal. You may not be getting a nursing degree, but the goals you have can be broken down into smaller ones. These will help you to see the progress you are making towards your larger goal.

What realistic goals are you working towards?


There is so much more that could be said about this, but I will leave that up to you, my readers. Tell me your thoughts in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

facing cancer as a parent

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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books are available at

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

A to Z Challenge Survivor



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