For many people, January 1 brings a newfound sense of optimism. The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions can help your recovery efforts, but it’s important to consider your goals carefully so your good intentions aren’t soon abandoned.
Setting SMART Goals
The first known use of the SMART goal framework appeared in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. SMART goals were initially viewed as a way for managers to better evaluate the success of specific business initiatives, but the approach soon caught on as a way to promote personal development.
Here’s how using the acronym SMART can help you set recovery goals that will keep you on the path to lasting sobriety:
- Specific. Clearly defining what you want to accomplish is the first step towards reaching your goals. For example, instead of simply saying you want to get a job after graduating from residential treatment, think about what type of work you want, how many hours you want to work, and what type of pay is acceptable. Defining what fits your needs makes it easier to narrow your job search appropriately.
- Measurable. Think about how you will determine if you’ve achieved your goal. Some goals have a built-in measure of success, such as finding a new apartment. Others, such as repairing relationships with family, are more difficult to define. In this case, a measurable goal might be to send an apology letter to a family member you have hurt in the past or to invite them to a meeting to share the progress you’ve made in your recovery efforts.
- Achievable. Recovery can be a long and challenging process. Expecting that you’ll be able to accomplish all your goals with no setbacks or mistakes isn’t realistic. Be patient and celebrate the steps you are taking towards building a better life for yourself.
Relevant. Deciding why a goal is important to your recovery efforts helps you decide how much attention to devote to it. For example, finding a job can help you stay sober because working will give you a sense of purpose and a chance to meet new people as you’re earning money to put towards getting a new apartment, buying a new car, or other purchases that will help you build a new independent life for yourself.
- Timely. Open-ended goals encourage procrastination. Setting specific timeframes, such as one week or one month, keeps you focused on what you’re trying to achieve.
Some examples of SMART goals for people in recovery include:
- I will write in my journal for 10 minutes each morning.
- I will exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week.
- I will find a new sober hobby to enjoy in the evenings after work.
- I will go to bed by 10:00 PM each night, so I get the rest my body needs.
- I will volunteer in my community once per week.
- I will perform a random act of kindness each day.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Research has shown that accountability provides a powerful motivator in helping people to achieve their goals. Sharing your New Year’s resolutions with your counselor or sponsor is a great way to promote accountability. You can also ask friends and family members to hold you accountable for taking the necessary steps to reach your goals.
Goals Should Change as You Do
Remember, no two people in recovery are exactly alike. Your journey is unique, so your goals should be too. If you discover that a goal is not achievable or no longer fits your vision of what you want your life in recovery to look like, it’s OK to adjust your plans. Don’t get hung up on obstacles that are beyond your control, such as a family member who is not open to repairing your relationship or being passed over for a job because another candidate had more relevant work experience.
Turn to Your Sober Support Network for Help
When you’re working towards your goals, remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Knowing how to use the resources available to you shows that you’re a persistent and creative problem solver.
Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s Pennsylvania drug and alcohol residential addiction treatment program helps you develop the skills you need to create a sober life for yourself, but our support doesn’t end when you graduate from treatment. We offer extended care and alumni support services to help ease the transition back to independent living. In addition, you’ll receive a personalized continuing care plan that connects you to recovery resources in your community. Our goal is to provide you with the support you need to make 2020 your best year yet.