Scoring Goals With Your Goals

By Barby Ingle, PNN Columnist

When it comes to living with chronic pain and illness, the way we motivate ourselves and achieve goals can change. I know it did for me.

There are two types of goals: mastery and performance. Before I had a chronic illness, I was performance oriented. I was wrapped up in demonstrating my competence and abilities, especially when it came to my job. Suddenly that was not possible anymore. I had to adapt, change and learn how to master by goals if I was going to manage the chronic pain portion of my life. That’s where I am now.

Knowing someone’s goals helps us understand what motivates them and predict if there is a likelihood of achieving and sustaining their goals. It can also help us decide if we have a similar goal that can be worked on together, if we should partner with them or if we should move on to someone else.

In a doctor-patient relationship, if a doctor can’t help you achieve your goals with the tools and resources they have to offer, then it’s probably time to find a new doctor.

Performance oriented goals (also known as ego goals) are characterized by the belief that success is the result of superior ability. Performance oriented individuals seek to outperform others and demonstrate their ability.

When patients are working to complete this type of goal, they’re often concerned about how they will be judged relative to others. An example of this would be a patient who wants their doctor to love them the most and call them their “best” patient. They are competing against other patients in a game with only one winner.


I believe mastery goals will prove to be more effective in the long run. Mastery goals are also known as learning goals. They are goals where the person is focused on learning, mastering tasks, self-improvement and developing new skills. An example of a master-oriented goal would be organizing your medical records.

When a chronic pain patient masters a skill at their own pace and level – not competing with others --- it increases their resilience, quest for knowledge and enjoyment of life. One of my favorite quotes is “Winners don’t always win, but they never give up.” When we become mastery goal setters, we can accomplish more without societal pressures and take our time knowing that we will make mistakes and its okay.

Setting a mastery goal starts with taking a moment to think about what you want to accomplish over the next few weeks or months. Is there something you have been wanting to try? Something that will take you longer than others who are healthier? Are you up for that challenge?

Ask yourself what you want to learn. Then make it a learning goal. You do this by being specific. Don’t just say, “I want to organize my medical records.” Do you want your records in notebooks, on a computer, a USB, or in your patient portals? Do you want to update or correct your records” and send copies to your doctors? Do you want to start from today and only do new records or go back and organize everything?

Remember, your goal should be achievable in a few weeks or months. Otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure. Decide on a goal that is attainable. What past skills do you have that can help you out? Think through your goal to make sure it is realistic. Are you able to work on multiple goals at the same time or do you need to break this one down further to make it doable? Think about your current abilities and how they will help you achieve your goal.

How will you measure your success? Decide at the start how you will measure your progress. Try to organize five pages of medical records a day or do whatever you can. On some days you’ll accomplish more than others.

Ready to “goal” for it? Share in the comment section below what your goal will be in 2019. Sharing your goal can help you stay motivated. I wish each of you well on your goals and success in accomplishing the activities you set out to accomplish!  

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Barby Ingle lives with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), migralepsy and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain FoundationShe is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics. More information about Barby can be found at her website. 

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.