‘Tis the season for making extravagant promises to yourself about getting healthy, losing weight, getting in shape and any number of other life improvements. Such goals can be intimidating when you have RA and have more barriers to success than just a waning willpower and the need for chocolate chip cookies. Pain and side effects to medication are just two of the challenges that can get between you and your goal. When you're tired from the minute you get up and it takes all your energy to get through the day, setting a goal for change — any change, really — can be overwhelming.
Eight years ago, I was in the middle of an unrelenting flare. It had been part of my life for close to a year, taking everything I had and everything I was. And eight years ago this week, I got my first shot of Enbrel and for the first time in my 40 years with RA, a medication worked. It took a long time to get strength and stamina back — not weeks or months, but years. In fact, I am still getting stronger. The increase in strength and ability is less noticeable now than in the beginning, but when I reflect on when I was a year ago and where I am now, at the beginning of another year, the change is obvious. This process has made me look at change with RA in a completely different light. I have realized that creating lasting change requires a shift in perspective. You have to balance the right now with a long-term perspective.
"If you can make today—right now—different, you don’t have to worry about a whole year of different.”
- Joel Friedlander on The Book Designer
Looking down a long road towards your future goal can be more than a bit intimidating. If you're planning to create a significant change, such as losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking, etc., the difference between now when you've barely started and the time when you will be successful can seem insurmountable. Focusing solely on the present moment, instead of how much work it will take to reach your goal, can make all the difference.
You can't go back in time and change what happened yesterday. You can't travel into the future to see what will happen in a year. The only thing you can control is right now. Today at this moment, you can choose to eat vegetables instead of fries, not smoke, be kind to yourself, take an extra step, meditate, breathe deeply and count to 10 instead of yelling at your kids (or traffic) and recycle a magazine instead of adding it to a pile. When you wake up tomorrow, you control what happens then.
Don't think about what you'll do next week, next month or six months from now. Just focus on what you're doing today. By taking it one step at a time, change becomes a small, doable task. Over time, these small changes create bigger ones.