Setting Goals Brings Me Benefits While Living with Chronic Illness

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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Goal setting is an essential part of a balanced life. Regardless of whether the goals are related to fitness, finances, or learning a new skill, having targets gives you something to work toward and opportunities for improvement.

I recently read a post titled, “8 Benefits of Goal Setting,” and I’ve since applied those tips to my life with a chronic illness.

Before I received my diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) over three years ago, I set regular goals. Few things brought me as much joy as mastering a new skill or crossing an item off my bucket list. My goals before I became ill included achieving a personal best in swimming or skating and learning a second language. Unfortunately, I haven’t reached the latter goal, though I admire anyone who is multilingual.

Achieving goals is good for my mental health. Since my diagnosis, the goals that I strive for are significantly different than my previous ambitions. Despite knowing that my time is limited compared to that of my peers, I still recognize the benefits of setting and achieving goals.

In the post mentioned above, some benefits of goal setting resonated with me more than others. I thought about how each one might help in a life that sometimes feels chaotic and unpredictable due to IPF. I continually strive to live with less chaos, while spending quality time with friends and feeling at peace with my decisions, as well as being as productive as possible without pushing myself too hard.

Following are three benefits of goal setting that I’ve found:

  1. Clearer focus: I’ve written about brain fog and how IPF can lead to struggles with cognitive tasks such as problem-solving and comprehension. I try harder to set goals if I know that the process will bring me improved clarity and focus. My current goals focus on intention rather than merely on effort, as I need to conserve my energy.
  1. Effective use of my time: I am sure that many others living with IPF can relate to the importance of using their time wisely. This disease depletes my physical energy, and some days I struggle to complete the minimal tasks needed. Setting goals helps me to prioritize assignments — this benefit is particularly important to me as I’ve been trying to maintain a full schedule, including full-time work, since my diagnosis. Setting and achieving small goals each day gives me the satisfaction of completing something and makes me feel that I’ve been productive.
  1. Peace of mind: Feeling comfortable with our decisions, actions, and goals is good for our physical and mental health and leads to success in other aspects of our lives, such as relationships with friends, family members, and colleagues. I can cope better with my disease and all that it entails when I believe that I’ve met my weekly goals. I enjoy spending a quiet weekend at home, crossing items off my to-do list. This activity helps me to feel calm while giving me a sense of peace, something that is rare when living with the chaos of a chronic illness.

Have you found goal setting to be beneficial since your IPF/PF diagnosis?


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Rene Hakkenberg avatar

Rene Hakkenberg

Hi Charlene, to start, just some facts. Was diagnosed with IPF in dec. 2017 but a 2014 CTscan showed unrecognized early symptoms. Have been taking 200 mg instead to the recommended 300 mg of Ofev but find it nearly intolerable due to side effects like lack of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, etc.
A recent lung function test showed a fairly good result in spirometry and volumes but diffusion (DLCO) went down from 45% to 34% in a time span of about 3 months. My question: have other IPF-ers experienced similar DLCO reductions, symptomized by increasing shortness of breath? Any medical explanation for the quick reduction or any recommendations on how to deal with this? Thank you for the amazing work you do for us!

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Rene,

Thanks for reading my columns and as always, wonderful to hear from you! Do you mind if I move your question about the DLCO number (since it is a great one!!) to the forums to see if others have this experience? I will make it live today so keep an eye open for any replies. I just think it might have a better chance of being replied to on the forums as opposed to a columns comment :)

Chat with you soon!


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