Living with Cancer: Setting Goals

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 30, 2013
Quick Bites

  • Focus on short-term goals; you'll be motivated to stay on course.
  • Write down your goals; you'll have a clearer idea of what you want.
  • When your goals are specific, you have a better idea of your progress.
  • It is better to focus on one goal at a time.

"There are lots of things I still like doing, but I know that I can't do them as well or as much. But that doesn't stop me from trying to achieve them in a different way." - Sookie

cancer goalsCancer treatment can take up a lot of your time and energy. It helps to plan something that takes your mind off the disease each day. Many people with cancer also set longer-term goals. They say that they do much better if they set goals or look forward to something special. It could be an anniversary, the birth of a child or grandchild, a wedding, a graduation, or a vacation. But if you set a long-term goal, make sure you are realistic about how you will achieve it.


To deal better with cancer, it is important to set goals you can reach. Goal-setting makes it clear for you to make a change. You need to set short-term as well as long-term goals. Short-term goals are the small modifications in lifestyle or steps (say week by week) to improve your health.  Long-term goals are the goals that you want to reach in 6 to 12 months. To meet long-term goals, you need to stay motivated, track your progress and update your goals as you move forward.


Focus on small goals

Doing so will help you reach larger goals over time. When you are able to achieve smaller goals, you'll be motivated to stay on course with long-terms goals.


Put your goals on paper

When you write down your goals, you'll have a clearer idea of what you want to achieve. Make a note of progress. It will be like a reminder of what you're trying to do.


Make specific goals

When your goals are specific, you have a better idea of your progress. For example, eating more veggies and fruits is not as specific as eating 2 helpings of fruits and vegetables a day.


One goal at a time

You cannot focus at several things at the same time. It is better to focus on one goal at a time. By doing this, you're less likely to feel overwhelmed and then give up.



Give yourself a reward when you achieve a goal. Celebrating your success will help you stay attuned with long-term goals besides motivation.


Being flexible is important. You may have to change your plans if your energy level drops. You may have to adjust your goals if the cancer causes new challenges. Whatever your goals are, try to spend your time in a way that you enjoy.



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