When SMART Goals Aren’t Enough: Additional Support Navigating Life With Chronic Pain

This post is Part 2 of 2: a series on SMART goals contributed by Ouchie’s pain psychologist, Dr. John T. Sorrell.

Access the first post here.


The likelihood of success in making life change, creating a new habit, or moving towards just about any goal can be improved by having a plan. This is especially true in the context of living life with chronic pain. Below are a few tips you can consider the next time you establish a goal towards making an important change in your life.

What would you do or say if you were sitting in your seat on an airplane preparing to takeoff and heard the pilot say the following:

“Thank you for choosing Aimless Airlines. I did not have time or interest in coming up with a flight plan, so I have no idea where we are going or exactly when we will get there, wherever that may be. But have no fear, folks, if when we arrive it isn’t where you want to be, you can get another ticket for a flight tomorrow and try again. Thanks again for choosing Aimless Airlines. Sit back and enjoy your flight to nowhere.”

 

Hearing the above as you wait to takeoff on a flight likely would be more than a bit concerning to say the least. Even with the perfect “flight plan” or having been very thoughtful about your SMART goal setting, there are times when it’s necessary for additional support or relying on a co-pilot for assistance to reach your destination.

  

Who do you rely on when you need support? Is there anyone in your life with whom you can discuss goals, plans for following through with your goals, how to navigate challenges or bumps in the road that occur (expectedly or unexpectedly), or anyone you can discuss making changes to goals based on feedback you get from taking action?

 

There are times when navigating life with chronic pain and taking action on SMART goals can feel overwhelming. The support of someone you trust can make a world of difference in keeping you on track, maintaining momentum, and moving forward. Chronic pain coaching, for example, is a way to gain additional support as you work to reach goals you have set for yourself. Some benefits of coaching include the following:

  • Increase clarity and confidence

  • Guidance and structure

  • Assistance with SMART goal setting

  • Problem solve challenges or obstacles towards goal attainment

  • Taking action and implementing a plan

  • Accountability for follow-through

  • Emotional and moral support

  • Help to empower you on your path

  

If you struggle with making progress towards your goals, consider reaching out to a chronic pain coach, a therapist, or another professional with whom you can explore new perspectives, resources, and/or pathways to success.


About Dr. Sorrell:

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John T. Sorrell, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with primary interests in psychological approaches to chronic pain management, pain-related anxiety, fear-avoidance, and behavioral medicine. Dr. Sorrell earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from West Virginia University in 2003. He completed his clinical internship in behavioral medicine at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, and postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral medicine at UC San Diego and the VA San Diego Health Care System. Following his fellowship, Dr. Sorrell returned to the Bay Area to join the San Mateo Medical Center where he provided clinical care to HIV patients with chronic pain and assisted in the design and institution of the Chronic Pain Management Clinic. He became part of the interdisciplinary team at the Stanford University Pain Management Center before moving on to fulltime private practice when he founded the Chronic Pain Psychology Center. Dr. Sorrell feels passionate about providing integrated care to patients in the management of chronic pain. Through cognitive behavioral and acceptance and commitment therapies, Dr. Sorrell works with patients to live more and suffer less.

John Sorrell