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Can you be a caregiver and still pursue your dreams?! Let’s see.

Last year, I conducted a small, but revealing, reader survey to see what issues concerned people most. Somewhat surprisingly, the desire to pursue one’s dreams while being a caregiver emerged as an important topic for many.

As I reflected on this topic further, in light of my current caregiving situation (my 83-year-old father living with us with moderate care needs), it revealed some underlying patterns that have been there for years.

Which do you think is better – to go with the flow and follow your energy or follow a prescribed routine?

If qualities like concrete results, happiness, peace and fulfillment are indicators of which path is most useful, I’m afraid that the first option yields good, but not stellar results, for me.

I’ve dabbled with various approaches to structure. And, of course, I have a good bit of structure to my days, or I’d never make a meeting or an appointment,  meet any deadlines or get a meal on the table.

I believe that there are four reasons for my “go with the flow” approach:


  1. Poor sleep dictates my daily energy and my energy level dictates what I “feel” like doing at any time of the day.
  2. Putting others first becomes an easy excuse for not pursuing my dreams — whatever those may be.
  3. I haven’t committed to a lofty goal or a passion yet. I have pretended and dabbled, but I haven’t chosen and dedicated myself to taking incremental and consistent steps towards a singular vision. I’ve not committed enough time and space in my life.
  4. I am easily overwhelmed by feelings of what I “should” be doing. That list is very long and mostly oriented to what others need from me. When I am overwhelmed, I cannot make a clear choice and feel good about it. I feel half-committed and some cognitive dissonance about whether I made the right choice.

It’s time to change this pattern. It’s time to change the flow of life energy and action to carve out a different river in my life and choose where I want this current to take me.

Mainly, what I think that I want is a new experience of being myself in my life. I want higher quality outcomes in certain areas, and I want to think and feel new, more positive experiences of how my life is lived.

So, how will I do this? I believe it starts with dealing with my “reasons” and to experiment with the routine until I find what works. And, as research has shown, we can’t fix everything at one time. We have to keep it simple. To form new habits, we need to have active triggers that prompt new actions.

My Plan for Reinvention

I view the four reasons above from four categories for change.

Energy – Several areas could be worked on to improve energy — sleep, food, exercise, peace, simplicity.

I will focus on three areas for now — ways to improve my sleep,  meditation for clarity and calm, and simplifying areas of my life so that they require less energy. (This is the HOW)

Priority – It’s too easy to let others’ needs come before my own and be a distraction from my growth. For caregivers, it’s a procrastination tactic that has honor and pride attached to it, which makes it particularly tricky. (This is the WHO – ME!)

I will focus on the self-discipline of getting up earlier to have time before anyone else wakes up that I give to myself. It will require energy and it could deplete me, initially, but my focus on sleep should help.

Commitment – This is where the “rubber starts to meet the road” as they say. Changing our habits and actions require a shift in how we spend our time. The best ways that I know to do this include organizing, planning and prompts. (This is the WHEN)

I will create a weekly calendar with the minimum buckets of time I believe is needed to take adequate action on this plan. I will review the plan, and next actions weekly, and I will create visual and digital prompts to support my new habits.

Choice – This feels like the hardest part — deciding what to DO with the new-found energy, time and space I create. I had decided some time ago to create MyHealthVoice.com and write a blog regularly as a way to explore my ideas and build a writing career.

If I know that, and it is something I want to pursue, I need to decide to make it my singular vision for a certain period. Committing means saying no to something else and that feels limiting to me. However, if I want to grow and learn and create, I have to choose and keep choosing every day. (This is the WHY & WHAT)

I choose to be a writer and to explore the subjects that matter to me. I will stay dedicated to this until the end of 2016. At that time, I will re-assess my choice and destination.

Does this resonate with you? How do you feel your patterns are directing your life? How has caregiving helped, or hurt, the pursuit of your dreams (personally or professionally)? What are the  “reasons” that you may not be seeing better outcomes in your life?

Follow me as I experiment with these areas and find out how to unlock my potential for higher quality outcomes alongside a better experience of myself. I’ll be sharing samples and resources that help me along the way.

Please comment and share this post if you, or others you know, may be struggling with the same issues. Thanks!

About @susanharkema

Susan is the creator of MyHealthVoice.com, built upon her 20+ years in healthcare and her experiences as a caregiver and patient. She is a writer, speaker and advocate for people living with chronic or life limiting illness as well as their family and professional caregivers. Learn more - www.myhealthvoice/susanharkema/.

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