I had a leg up on some stroke survivors because I knew about setting SMART goals. It was the early 2000s and I read a book called Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Annie McKee, and Richard Boyatzis. It inspired me to change the way I worked, and as a result, how people worked for me. It took some time, and I turned me into a better boss. I also read some trendy books and learned about SMART goals.
When I had my stroke, I used my past work experience to keep me going. Although I had no job anymore, I set goals for myself. They were SMART goals, too (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). I communicated them as best I could. On my first stroke-aversey I would:
S - Overcome the obstacles and run a 5K on the first anniversary of my stroke
M - Work my way up from the wheelchair in the hospital to run a 5K
A - Exercise every day to gain the skill and stamina needed to run
R - Learn how to stand, walk with a cane, move on the street, jog - each step was necessary
T - Make the 1-year mark work in my favor because I would achieve my goal with flying colors
I began walking with a cane that April. By June, I dropped the cane, and walked with my husband outside. By August, I was kind of running. I had the Coach-2-5-K app on my phone. I was not going that fast. I was out of synch, too. I told myself I was running. I made it to week four and had to start over because my right side didn’t work as well as my left side.
My Insurance Ran Out
In August, my insurance ran out. In September I hired a physical therapist and I paid her out of pocket. She worked on me a couple times a week for a year. For the first five to six months she also saw me cry every time I was in her office. I couldn’t help it. Despite how I was feeling (happy, miserable, and anywhere in between) I could only cry. I couldn’t say much because of my aphasia—the inability to speak. She let me cry. When I was through, we went to work out.
I kept plugging away. She had me doing drills, hops, and cross body movements. She was trying to wake up my right side and make it move properly. When we were done with the session, she gave me a massage.
Missed the Mark
When my first stroke-aversey came up, I did not run the 5K. I couldn’t yet. My gait still faltered. The goal that I thought was attainable turned out to be unattainable for me in that time frame. So I set my sites on the second stroke-aversey. I kept the same goals, but changed the timeline.
In September 2015, I stopped working with my physical therapist. She had done a great job getting me to look like I walked “normally”. A person standing on the street couldn’t tell that I had a a stroke 1-1/2 years before. Doctors and therapists could still see there was something wrong, but I took pride in fooling the rest. Except for the pain. It still hurt like the dickens. I just put the pain out of my mind as best that I could.
Second Time’s a Charm?
Two weeks before my second stroke-aversey, I was running outside, hit a bumpy piece of sidewalk, and fell down. When I got up, I knew that something was wrong. My right arm wouldn’t bend. I started walking home and realized that I had my phone. Hmm. I could just call my husband and he could come take me to the hospital.
My husband, Jim, was not that pleased that I had dislocated my elbow. Obviously the 5K was off for that year, too. Oh well. I would just reset the timeline for another year out.
A Shift of Acceptance
When my third stroke-aversey came around, I realized that I didn’t need to run the 5K. To be honest, after my dislocation, I didn’t run anymore. I realized that not running was ok because I FINALLY realized that I was I completely different person than I was before the stroke.
Why did it take so long to realize that I had changed? Perhaps I am just stubborn. Or perhaps I just needed that much time to realize that I wasn’t the same person who had the stroke. I had learned to like myself again. In that liking came a new acceptance for myself.
No matter where you are in your recovery, it does get better. If you are a different person from the one from before the stroke. I have a secret. Nobody stays the same. We all change as we go through life. Sometimes there are big changes. Sometimes the changes are small and we can’t see them. Yet, they happen all the time.
Smart Goals Work
I still think that SMART goals played their role in my recovery. If I didn’t have a big goal to shoot for, I might not have had the courage to do all of the little things it took to get better.
For information on how you can set up SMART goals, send me an email and we can discuss how to get started.