Happy New Year! A New Year is like a blank slate—filled with possibilities. A lot of people start the New Year off with a list of resolutions, but what about setting goals instead?
Setting goals is a powerful way to implement change in our lives—especially when we’re recovering from an injury. Without goals, we have no vision for where we are going. With them, we have a road map and a visible destination.
There is an art to goal setting—and we like to see all of our patients master this art in order to experience success after surgery. If you want to soar through recovery and physical therapy, set goals that are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.
Specific: A goal needs to be specific, otherwise how will you know what you are working toward or when you have attained it? A vague goal is: “I want to get back to 100%.” Instead, get specific: “I will be able to walk five miles pain-free by April 1st” or “I will be able to perform 10 full squats properly by March 1st.”
Measurable: A goal needs to be measurable so that you can track your progress and document your success. You can measure physical recovery or fitness by setting a target—such as restoring knee flexion to +130º. In contrast, a goal such as “I want my knee to feel better” is neither specific nor measurable. How will you measure growth? Set a benchmark that you can track.
Attainable: Set yourself up for success by setting attainable goals. “I want to run a marathon one month after my surgery” is not an attainable goal. A goal like that is a guarantee of failure, which leads to misery. Instead, set a goal like “I want to regain full range of motion and full strength and power within 6 months of surgery.” That is an attainable goal that will leave you feeling successful.
Realistic: It’s fun to dream, but it’s also important to be realistic. If your goal is to be the superstar of physical therapy, but you have a grueling work schedule and several small children at home, you might not be on track to achieve this goal. Focus on goals that are realistic for your current life. Balance is key. Your recovery is important, but so is your family.
Timely: In order to be useful, goals need to have a time frame. Without a time frame, we have no motivation to take action. Having a specific time frame will spur you into action and help you monitor your progress. Together, you and your physical therapist can develop a time frame for your recovery—with specific and measurable benchmarks.