Jill, a parent carer from Camden and a member of the team at Camden Carers, shares how even as carers, we don’t (and shouldn’t) give up on our own plans and dreams. Jill shares her approach to setting and achieving our own personal goals around our caring roles.
Read read Jill’s own caring story here.
Where did my own dreams go?
Often when we become fully immersed in a caring role, we can abandon or let go of our own plans and dreams. This can often happen unconsciously and can take a while to notice that our life has perhaps gone adrift to our original plans.
Our caring role can become all encompassing, and it can be awhile before we raise our head above the workload and emotional upheaval. At which point we may wonder what on earth happened to our own plans and dreams!
Perhaps we planned to develop our careers, move house or further our education. Or perhaps there were other life plans that we just kept putting off or have simply given up on?
It can feel difficult to think about the loss of these dreams and even more challenging to think about revisiting them or making new plans. So, this is a practical guide that helped me, and I hope will help you to set new goals for yourself. Whilst fully recognising and acknowledging the emotional challenges we face as carers.
Here are the steps, we can take to move our lives forward in a way that we want and choose:
Carve out time
Decide on our goal
Create a vision
Go step by step
What if things go wrong?
Reflect and re-evaluate
Enjoy the journey
1. Top Tips
Before we get started, here are a couple of tools that may support us along the way:
If we’re one of those people who works best with a bit of structure, then we might like to invest in a planner, which guides us through our goal setting. There are lots out there, including;
There are some free online templates available too, such as:
Accountability can be great too. Perhaps there is a friend who wants a similar goal, who we could check in with. Or perhaps there is a group we can join.
And remember to reward ourselves! Decide on key achievements along the way, and plan a small treat at each point. From a take-away coffee or a home-spa evening! Whatever motivates us.
2. Carve out Time
Wherever possible, we will benefit greatly from carving an hour out for ourselves, to do this. Time to really think about our goals properly! Finding the time might require some creativity, or it could be as simple as pausing some housework and putting ourself first on this occasion.
Once we’ve carved out the time, the following tools can help us to achieve clarity on what we want to achieve.
3. Decide on our goal
What is it we want? Are we thinking of a new job, some weight loss, a positive shift in our mental health? What is it we would like to aim for?
If it’s been a long time since we have had our own personal goals or dreams, perhaps starting with something small will ease us in. Maybe a small but important goal to connect with more carers, see friends a bit more or learn a new craft.
4. Create a vision
By really seeing ourselves living our plan, it helps to bring it closer:
Sitting quietly with our eyes closed. In our mind’s eye, set the scene of our dream or plan (new job, new skill, new place to live, etc) Really sink into how it looks, feels, smells, sounds - using all our senses. See it as though we are living it.
Create a Vision Board. Take a large piece of card and fill it with images, colours and words from magazines, brochures or drawings of what we want to achieve – qw can update this regularly. For more tips, check out our blog on ‘how not to do a vision board!’.
Describe our vision in writing – maybe write a letter to ourself saying what we are achieving and how it feels, etc.
All of these techniques help to bring the goal to life. When our mind has ‘lived’ the feeling of achieving the goal, it simply believes it’s already done. It’s much easier to do something our mind already thinks it’s done before. We’re creating a ‘towards goal’
Note: Visualising can be quite powerful, so be aware of your feelings – allow them, remember to breathe, keep centred and focussed on your dream.
Some of us can find it helpful to make our goals SMART.
Here are two examples:
“I want to lose weight by the summer, and it is now February”
Specific: 10kg weight loss
Measurable: 2kg per month, measured by weighing myself
Achievable: By choosing a diet & exercise programme that suits me
Realistic: Making the weight loss goal reasonable for my lifestyle
Time-bound: By 1st July 2021
The benefit of this approach, is that we can set realistic and therefore achievable goals.
5. Go step by step
Breaking our goals down into smaller steps provides us with our roadmap.
For example, if we have decided that we want to get a job, we can break down all the steps we need to take to get there. This might include volunteering for experience and confidence. It might include a self-development course, moving through to creating our CV and joining an agency. There will be a logical flow.
And we can celebrate each step we take.
For some goals, we can apply a timeline. If we take the weight loss example above, the timeline might be:
1st February: Identify type of diet, plan meals; research exercise plans (daily walk, online exercise class, swimming) Starting weight?
7th February: Diet and exercise plans in place. Identify motivators.
1st March: Weigh-in and reflect: what have I enjoyed, what have I found difficult? Any changes needed?
14th March: Motivation: mid-month check in with a friend. Start planning summer activities.
1st April: Weigh-in and reflect: what have I enjoyed, what have I found difficult? Am I on track? Motivation.
1st May: Weigh-in and reflect; what have I enjoyed, what have I found difficult? Change exercise plan for better weather. Summer diet.
15th May: Plan new wardrobe – do online research!
1st June: Weigh-in and reflect: what have I enjoyed, what have I found difficult? How do I feel now? Celebrate & motivate.
15th June: Maintenance plan from next month onwards. Have a treat: massage, meet with a friend for coffee etc
1st July: Goal achieved! Time to celebrate – buy something special to wear, have a special treat with those who have helped. Put a maintenance plan in place.
6. What if things go wrong?
The best laid plans can (and do) go wrong. Life throws things at us, and as carers unexpected developments are even more likely! What to do? We have several choices:
Give up: We may choose to give up this plan. That’s OK, but make it a conscious choice, don’t give up just because we feel we have no choice. Sometimes we make plans and then somewhere in the process, realise that it was not really what we wanted after all. There’s no shame in admitting that and tearing up the plan. We’re simply learning - not failing! Then we can make a new one!
Work on through: Maybe whatever has taken us off course is temporary and we can work through gradually until things ease off, when we can really move ahead again. Our timeline might change, but we can make that choice and keep going.
Make an adjustment: This is when we don’t feel our plan is totally wrong, but it needs altering to fit our new circumstances. Nothing is lost in this process – just be realistic and make new choices. No failures - just learnings.
Take a step back: Sometimes we need to retrace our steps, in order to move forward again. While it might feel disappointing, in the process we might learn something to help us, by reviewing our experience; and still feel it is a positive, not a backwards step.
Involve others: We all need help from time to time. Whatever happens to interrupt our plans, talking it through with someone else can help us gain clarity about how to get back on track or change track. Sometimes we need a bit of distance to see things clearly. Who do we know that could help with our specific challenge? Remember, our local carer centre can help too, or Mobilise offer free 1:1 support calls.
7. Make time to reflect and re-evaluate
Reflecting and re-evaluating is a key part of the process of growth and change, so regularly check in and ask yourself:
What is going well?
What is not going well?
What might I do differently?
What have I learned?
Maybe this is a Sunday morning activity, with a nice cuppa in our favourite armchair.
8. Enjoy the journey!
It may sound like a cliché, but personal development is truly as much about the journey as it is about getting there. Always remember to:
Renew our commitment to ourselves
Find ways to stay motivated
Celebrate achievements along the way
Make it light-hearted
Share your experience
We have virtual cuppas which run from Monday to Friday. Join us for laughs, a fun chat and real deep conversations! If that is too big a step, visit our Facebook community to connect with other unpaid carers.
About the author
Jill Pay is an Independent Trainer-Facilitator and Life Coach, and Breaks & Activities Service Manager at Camden Carers.