Geeks Vs Loneliness: setting and managing life goals

From housework tombola to Race For Life: Sarah explains how she battles mental health problems, one job at a time.

Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our weekly spot where we talk about issues, problems, stresses and demands that are affecting sometimes a few, sometimes many of us. We try and come up with a few ideas that may be of us too, but as we’ve always said, we don’t – worse luck – have any magical elixir in our cupboard.

This week, we welcome the brilliant Sarah Myers, who will take over the column from here. She wanted to talk about how she finds setting often very small goals helps her. Hopefully, there’s something in here that might help you, or someone you know.

Over to Sarah…

I just finished washing the dishes! Can I get a medal?

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Okay, so I didn’t exactly win gold in an Olympic event, but it is a big deal to me. Why? Because I got out of bed, got dressed, and did something productive – a rare occurrence for me.

Suffering severe mental health problems, as I do, is no picnic. I currently have no definitive diagnosis, days seem to last forever, and the idea of ‘doing stuff’ is overwhelming.

Why do today what you can leave until next week, right?

And yet, I am forever dreaming of achieving those life goals. I want to lose weight, meet someone get married, have children, and live in a nice home that I bought and paid for. But that means getting up, getting out, and putting myself out there mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Nope. No, thank you. I will just stay here in bed with my cat, my cup of tea, and a book. Here is safe.

Logically I am able to step back and see what is happening.

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My mental health drains my motivation. My lack of motivation inspires procrastination. My procrastination means my goals are never met. My abandoned goals damage my mental health because I feel like a failure. And back to the start we go. Again, and again, and again.

It took me a long time to see where I was going wrong.

I was setting too many life goals, setting goals too high, setting goals inspired by other people, and trying to fulfil them all at the same time. It’s like trying to cycle the Tour De France, while learning Cantonese, and playing an oboe.

Not the smartest idea.

So, I decided to cut my goals into smaller tasks.

Want a nice clean home? Write down every single individual chore that needs doing on its own scrap of paper, throw it in a tub, and pick one at random like a Housework Tombola. Washing up may take thirty minutes. Emptying the bins will take five minutes. An hour to tidy and organise the bedroom.

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You can do one task a day. Two a day. Three a week. It doesn’t matter. The fact is, each small task adds towards the end goal.

Yes, a million scraps of paper with chores may look intense, but you only need to focus on one little piece at a time.

It is easier said than done. I know that better than anyone.

But I also know how much better I feel after I finish the dishes. That small sense of achievement gives me a little burst of motivation. So, maybe next I will tackle the cat litter box. Then I will put some laundry on. Tomorrow, maybe I will clean the window in the living room.

It applies to anything.

I am partaking in the Race For Life in June. Not running – no, no. Walking. But it’s something I can do. I still plan on a bit of training, but nothing too intense. I’m not Mo Farah. I just need to know I can walk 5K without collapsing. And it will help my fitness.

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I will be going on my first short holiday, in July. I already have a list of places to visit while in Brighton and I plan to hit at least one visitor attraction per day. Nothing too taxing. And it’s only a weekend trip, so I am not out of my comfort zone for too long. My dream of three months in the USA can wait until I know I can handle a few short seaside breaks first.

And that is the point.

Nobody ever said that goals have to be huge life changing events, or that you have to achieve them in one fell swoop. Smaller tasks add towards overall end goals, and the sense of achievement you get from a simple act will boost your motivation, too. “I DID IT!”

Whether it is running a marathon or going shopping for food, your goals are your goals. So why not break them down to make them more manageable?

You don’t have to go fast and you don’t have to go far, Little Tortoise. You just have to go.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

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