Setting goals is a useful strategy for maintaining recovery. Most people have fairly straightforward big goals for recovery, including staying sober, repairing relationships, getting their career back on track, or having more stability in life. While these are all worthy aspirations, they are also open-ended. You want to stay sober indefinitely. You want your relationships and career to continue improving, rather than just improving a little, then stopping. It can be hard to maintain commitment to these indefinite aims without some concrete markers of progress. Having specific goals focuses your attention. Knowing what you want to achieve in the next month or next week keeps you from getting sidetracked by other things. And you gain confidence every time you achieve your goal. Here are some tips for setting goals in recovery.
Break big goals into intermediate goals.
You probably have a good idea of what you want to accomplish in recovery, but it might seem overwhelming. Every big goal is overwhelming at first. Make it more manageable by breaking it down into smaller goals that move you in the direction of larger goals. For example, if one of your goals is to get out of debt caused by your addiction, you might look at the total debt and think there’s no way you can do it. But you can do it one bite at a time. A good strategy might be to make a goal to pay off your smallest debt by the end of the month. Maybe that would require saving a little extra money or working more hours, but surely you can find a way to pay off the smallest debt in a reasonable time. Then, once you meet that goal, set a goal for paying off the next smallest debt and so on. You can only do one thing at a time anyway, so you might as well break up your goals into tasks that make sense.
Find the goal sweet spot.
When setting goals and subgoals, try to set goals that are challenging enough to be interesting but easy enough that they aren’t overwhelming. This can take a little practice to get right, since some goals turn out to be easier or harder to reach than you first thought. A good goal should force you to grow and perhaps make you slightly uncomfortable, but not be so difficult that you give up.
Make your goals measurable.
Another problem with goals like “stay sober” or “repair relationships” is that they aren’t measurable. You don’t know when you’ve achieved them. Find some way to make your goals related to these aims measurable. You might make a goal to attend 90 meetings in 90 days, for example. That’s measurable and time-bound. Or you might make a goal to call your parents every day this week in an effort to improve those relationships. As with finding the sweet spot, try to set your timeframe short enough to make the goal challenging, but long enough that it’s actually possible.
Track your progress.
Don’t forget to track your progress and give yourself credit for the goals you achieve. Celebrate your wins and let them inspire you to take on new challenges. When you don’t achieve your goal, figure out what went wrong, adjust your plan, and try again.
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