Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals: Rethink Multiple Sclerosis Relapses


Defining objectives is important for everyone as they seek to achieve certain goals in their personal or professional lives. For people with MS who have experienced a relapse (a “flare-up” or “attack”), setting goals is especially important. Setting goals after a relapse is the key to taking those incremental steps than can lead back to better health and a more active life.

“Having an MS relapse can certainly interfere with your life. It can prevent you from doing what you want to do and need to do on a daily basis. But making goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound can help you live a more active life.”


The Art of S.M.A.R.T. Goal-Setting

As you are taking steps to recover from an MS relapse, you are more likely to be successful in achieving your objectives if you set S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself. Often it is helpful to first set long-term goals, but then break them into short-term goals that are easier to achieve, so that you can start seeing results sooner. The concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals, which was first introduced in 1981 and later expanded on, can be helpful in defining and achieving specific goals for yourself as you continue to recover from your relapse.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are:

Specific: They clearly define what you are eventually hoping to accomplish.

   Example: “Return to work part-time (3 days per week).”

Measurable: They set specific criteria for measuring progress toward your goal.

   Example: Have a journal in which you keep track of how many times you participated in the activity you’ve chosen as a goal in a specific time frame.

Attainable: They are achievable within a reasonable time frame.

   Example: If the goals you set are too far out of your reach, you may get discouraged early and give up on your plan.

Relevant: They address a particular problem that you’ve identified that’s important to you.

   Example: If you had to take time off from work during your relapse, gradually returning to work would be a relevant goal.

Time-based: They have a specific time frame in order to create a clear target that you can work toward.

   Example: “Return to work part-time (3 days per week) in 6 months.” To achieve this goal, consider starting small, and working towards that goal little by little. If your employer is flexible, you could work 1 day per week for the first month. Then, increase that time incrementally.


Identifying Obstacles

At the outset, it is important to pinpoint any obstacles that may prevent you from achieving your goal. For example, you may experience fatigue on some days, and you may not be able to do the task that you set out to do.

Making Adjustments

Identify some adjustments you can make in order to compensate for or overcome these obstacles and still attain your goals. For example, if you experience fatigue, reschedule or reduce the frequency of any planned physical activity until your fatigue lessens, or make arrangements for a companion to support you.

Start setting S.M.A.R.T. goals

To download Adobe Reader, please click here.