Saturday, March 27, 2010

If I Can't Get Better, Why Bother?

I was facilitating a chronic disease self management workshop in an assisted living facility last week. Everyone in the group had multiple health problems. Quite a few of the people were over 90 years old! Halfway through the first session, one of the younger folks piped up. "I have incontinence. If you can't fix that, I don't think I should come back anymore." This was a tough one for me. I had to ask myself how she could benefit from the workshop. Then I responded, "No, we can't fix your incontinence, but if you stick it out through the class, you will be able to figure out ways to live a better life in spite of your problem." She stayed.

At the end of each session, we make action plans for the coming week. After quite a bit of discussion, this lady came up with a plan. For three days this week, she would go to the bathroom at regularly scheduled times, going before she experienced urgency. She tied some of the times to meals to make them easier to remember-before breakfast, mid-morning snack, before and after lunch, mid-afternoon snack, before and after dinner. If she found the plan helpful she was certainly free to do this everyday. But knowing that we all forget things at times, the plan is for just three days. By the time she comes back, she will probably have been successful for more than the three days.

When we have health problems, it's easy to give up. We just stop trying. After all, if we aren't going to get better, why bother? The truth is that we can always do something to improve the quality of our lives. Grandiose plans are doomed to fail. Failure makes us want to stop trying. We feel bad enough, why add failure to the mix? But if we make very small reasonable plans, we start to build successes. Each success gives us the courage and the desire to do more. What small thing can YOU do to make your life better this week?