Navigating bipolar disorder and setting goals. You would think it would be simple, right? You would approach setting goals just like everyone else. Let’s take a look at that.
Every year on December 31st, when the clock strikes midnight–before they even finish their New Year’s kiss–many people are already contemplating their goals for the new year ahead.
They feel that if they don’t hit the ground running on January 1st, they are falling behind before they even get started.
For people who live with bipolar disorder, that kind of thinking is problematic. In the rush to keep up with the Joneses, they are putting themselves at risk for relapse.
I know what you are thinking. But I am stable right now. Why can’t I hit the ground running like everyone else? I have big dreams and goals I want to achieve.
Let me stop right here and reassure you. A bipolar disorder diagnosis does not disqualify you from a big life filled with dreams and accomplishments.
Bipolar and Setting Goals—Redefine Your Approach
But, when you live with bipolar disorder, you must redefine the way you approach goals, so that you can maintain your hard-won stability while you are achieving them.
A debilitating episode of bipolar depression thwarted all the dreams and goals I had for 2021. I had to scale back my plans because I could barely get out of bed!
It was humbling, but it also taught me a valuable lesson. It made me realize I had to redefine the way I approach setting and achieving goals.
Now, instead of hitting the ground running, I have a new philosophy I hope you will join me in embracing.
When you live with bipolar disorder, instead of hitting the ground running with the goals you want to achieve, you must hit the ground walking.
Bipolar and Setting Goals—Hitting the Ground Walking
Yes, I know that sounds kind of weird and counterintuitive, but let me explain what hitting the ground walking when setting and achieving goals means practically when you are navigating bipolar disorder.
Here are four ways to navigate bipolar, set goals, and hit the ground walking, so that you can maintain your stability AND achieve your goals.
1. Treat bipolar first.
I will never forget the first time I read those three words on Instagram from bestselling author and bipolar expert, Julie Fast. Those three words succinctly exemplify my philosophy concerning living well with bipolar disorder.
Before you can even think about setting or taking the steps necessary to achieve a goal, you must always make managing bipolar disorder your number one priority.
Maintaining your stability comes before everything. You can’t do anything well if you are not well. Period.
How do you treat bipolar first practically? Sometimes it means sacrificing the time allotted to work on a goal on a particular day because you are exhausted, so you must prioritize rest over work, so you can maintain your stability.
It is a series of choices and compromises like eating well, consistent exercise, minimizing stress, avoiding triggers, maintaining a realistic workload, and many other tiny considerations that people who don’t live with bipolar disorder would never understand.
2. Pray about your goals and prioritize them. Be realistic about what you can tackle in a specific timeframe.
This is going to infuriate some of my Christian counterparts because I put praying under treating bipolar disorder.
I firmly believe that if you do not have a healthy mind, you can’t serve God. Treat bipolar first, so you can do great things for God.
Brainstorm a list of goals you want to achieve for a specific timeframe and then pray over them one by one. Pray for the wisdom and discernment to pick small, achievable goals that you can build on in time.
Part of hitting the ground walking is being realistic about what you can tackle in whatever timeframe you choose.
This goes against conventional wisdom, but less is more when setting goals when you are navigating bipolar disorder. You can always pursue new goals once you have conquered one or two smaller ones.
3. Determine how much time you have to work on your goals each week, separate your tasks into categories, and allocate time to each category to help mitigate motivation and focus issues.
Do you ever sit in your recliner thinking about your to-do list, berating yourself because you can’t force yourself to take the 15 steps to your desk to get started on whatever tasks you have planned for that day? Yeah, me too.
I set up a simple system this year that has increased my productivity exponentially.
First, decide how many hours a day you can allocate to work. This is not a time to be idealistic. Plan for procrastination and life getting in the way.
Next, break down the tasks you need to complete into categories. For me, those categories are writing, social media, education, and website improvements.
Finally, allocate a specific amount of time to each category. In my case, I have four hours to work each day, so each category gets an hour.
If an hour-long stretch per category feels too daunting, break the time down into smaller chunks that are less intimidating.
The Pomodoro technique is a great place to start. This technique even includes built-in breaks. It has been a game-changer for me.
When you take the guesswork out of your schedule, it makes it much easier to get started. And I don’t know about you, but for me, getting started is half the battle.
4. Don’t put an expiration date on your dreams and your goals.
In 2021, I changed the entire focus of my blog and really leaned into sharing my faith, so that I could spread hope and encouragement to others just like me who are living with bipolar disorder. I was excited and ready to hit the ground running with this new vision.
But then bipolar depression had another idea, and my plans came to a screeching halt.
I had to pivot and be realistic about what I could do while I was so sick that I could barely get out of bed.
Although my situation discouraged me, it was also a reminder that when you live with bipolar disorder, there will always be stops and starts while you navigate the debilitating symptoms that will inevitably come.
Don’t put an expiration date on your dreams and goals and remember that achieving your goals when you live with bipolar disorder is a marathon, not a race. Don’t give up because your path to success doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
We live in a world where people measure their success by comparing themselves to others on social media. We feel we must hit the ground running so that we can keep up with the Joneses.
When you live with bipolar disorder, you must redefine your approach to setting goals and achieving success.
Treating bipolar first is always the priority, but that doesn’t mean that bipolar disqualifies from living a life filled with accomplishments and success.
When you live with bipolar disorder, your path to success will look different.
It will be a marathon, not a race, but if you hit the ground walking and persevere, you can make that dream you have in your heart a reality.
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