SMART Goals Were a Dumb Choice When I Became a Caregiver

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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My life has changed a lot since I became a special-needs parent. Instead of goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based (SMART), I now lean toward loose plans for accomplishing new intentions for the year.

Raising a child with Angelman syndrome comes with challenges; my 12-year-old Angel, Juliana, keeps me on my toes. Navigating the twists and turns of such an unexpected path can be quite demanding. However, it doesn’t mean that I want caregiving to take over my life. I still have dreams and tasks I want to accomplish. But instead of a set-in-stone, typed-out list, the intentions that I make each year are short and simple, usually no more than one or two.

I don’t take my planning as seriously as I once did. Even when surprise circumstances creep up, I’m still able to accomplish my goals. Now, however, I carry them out in a different way, and with a different timeline.

Best-laid plans

In many ways, my yearly intentions still put me well ahead of most people. Around 80% of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions around February, according to Forbes.

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For this reason, I start thinking about what I hope to accomplish after the beginning of the year. Starting later gives me more time to think about what’s important as I settle into the new year. I can also align my goals with any changes that might be going on with Juliana.

Through the years, I’ve found that focusing on one or two possibilities is pretty doable. For example, in 2022 I plan to branch into a new area of writing and continue purging our house of excess stuff. The latter goal is not a new one. It’s just taking years to accomplish.

Of course, these aren’t the only things that I’ll achieve this year. But as the days roll by in 2022, these tasks are at the forefront of my mind. They will be my priority when I’m not wearing my caregiver’s hat.

I got knocked down

When Juliana was younger and before I changed my career path, I tried to maintain my plans as I had in the past. Those yearly goals included seven focus areas with deadlines. I had short-term goals for the long-term goals. I was a planning machine.

It was frustrating and unwise to continue this type of planning. If Juliana got sick or there was a season of challenges, my goals went out the window. I would get derailed, making it almost impossible to get back on track. I was fighting an uphill battle until I realized that I needed to change my battle plan.

Gone is the annual goal chart that served as my blueprint for the year. Instead, I make a mental note of my one or two goals and put some notes on my phone.

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Less is more. Sabrina’s SMART goals worksheets have been simplified to a few digital notes. (Photo by Sabrina Johnson)

Smarter than before

My rigid time schedule has been kicked to the curb, too. Despite living with a neurogenetic disease, Juliana is healthy. However, we are still living with Angelman syndrome, and that means that challenging behavior or health issues may come at any time. There are also the typical stress and demands that come with caregiving.

To stay in sync with these adjustments, I keep my timelines very loose. It takes me longer to get things done, but that’s the reality of our life. I think it’s smarter to have a flexible timeline for accomplishments rather than abandoning the goals.

It has taken me years to figure out a practical way to plan for my personal growth. My goals may not be as SMART as they were, but they’re still valuable. They are also more attainable because I’m not trying to add a lot to an already full plate. By letting myself off the hook with such a rigid plan, I’m able to stay flexible and slowly work my way toward a better me.

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


Anneli avatar


Wonderful reminder. Thank you.

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

Sabrina L. Johnson

You're welcome Anneli. I love it when I can learn something from my not so wise choices. Hopefully, I can save someone else from the trouble :).

Janet Waterman avatar

Janet Waterman

I read every article you write and have learned so much from your experiences. I am the grandmother and caregiver for our grandson who has Angelmans. Thank you for sharing, and I want you to know how I look forward to what you and Julianna and your family are up to. Less is best is an invaluable statement. Looking forward to your next story!

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

Sabrina L. Johnson

Hello Janet. You sound like a wonderful grandmother and caregiver. On top of that, your comment has made my day! Less is so much better, but I'm learning that even that takes a little work. We are always up to something in our house because Juliana keeps us busy. I hope you'll continue to read and enjoy our adventures.


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