When you think about the long road ahead, recovery might seem virtually impossible. How can you be expected to kick your addiction, improve your mental health, find a new group of friends, start working out, eat a healthier diet and complete all the tasks that your doctors lay out for you? Just one of those tasks would be challenging enough. Going to a rehab might help, but you’re not sure what you’ll do when you’re living in the outside world again. What’s the point in trying to improve yourself if you don’t even know where to get started?
That’s why it’s important to stop thinking about recovery as a massive achievement. Instead, think about recovery in terms of short, easy-to-manage goals. After all, recovery isn’t a single leap from addiction to sobriety. Recovery involves dozens of small steps that lead you on the road to sobriety. Instead of thinking about abstract achievements that might take years to complete, think about what you can start doing now to improve your life. You might be surprised by how many options you have.
Granite Recovery Centers can help you defeat your addiction, improve your mental health and lead a happier, more fulfilling life. However, you can’t transform your life without setting goals and sticking to them. Here’s what you need to know about setting effective goals in recovery.
Why Is Goal-Setting Important?
If you don’t know what you’re working toward, you won’t be able to achieve sobriety. For example, you could say, “My goal is to get sober.” But how do you lose your addiction, deal with the issues that might have contributed to it and live a healthier life going forward? You need concrete, achievable goals that will steer you on the path to sobriety, not abstract goals that seem impossible when you think about the amount of work involved.
Let’s say that you want to recover fully. Before you start, you might list the following goals:
- End your addiction and be healthy
- Have a cushy and stable job
- Buy a house
- Retire with enough money to live on
These goals might sound appealing, but you have no idea how to go from one point to another. As a result, you might decide that it’s impossible and give up without trying.
But what if you set small, manageable goals that you could accomplish on a day-to-day basis? Here’s another way you could write your goals:
These goals are much more realistic and attainable. You could even break down each goal into a set of smaller steps to make it easier. There’s no guarantee that you’ll land a cushy job and have a large house, but at least you’re giving yourself a chance–which is more than you could say if you assumed that your goal was impossible and gave up at the beginning.
Setting goals for yourself also gives you a sense of accomplishment. If your only goal is “Get sober,” you won’t feel accomplished until the end of your journey. This makes it much easier to get frustrated and discouraged along the way. When you set goals that you want to achieve, you can build your self-confidence by celebrating your small victories and looking forward to your larger accomplishments. Even when you suffer from thoughts of hopelessness, you can look back at how much you’ve accomplished and remind yourself that you’re on the right track.
How Do You Set Effective Goals?
If you’re not used to setting goals, you might not be sure where to start. Many experts recommend the “SMART” model of goal setting. Here are five factors that you should keep in mind when you start thinking about your goals:
The best goals are made with all five of these factors in mind. Here’s a rundown of what each factor means and how it relates to your time in recovery.
- Specific: First off, your goals must be specific. Instead of an abstract goal like “I want to be healthier,” choose a specific goal that you could actually imagine yourself doing. Some examples could be “Go to therapy once a week,” “Write in a journal every time you get cravings,” or “Start working out at the local gym.” These are concrete goals that you can work toward every day.
- Measurable: Similarly, you must be able to measure your progress. You could count the number of days that you’ve remained sober or weigh yourself regularly to see if you’ve lost (or gained) weight. Mental health can be harder to measure, but you could track your mood every day and see if it improves over the next several weeks.
- Action-Oriented Goals: The best goals involve direct actions that you can take immediately. “I want to improve my mental health” is a positive goal, but it doesn’t list any actions that you can take to improve your life. Conversely, “I want to meditate every day” is an action that you can take as soon as possible. With action-oriented goals, you’ll be actively working toward your goal of living a healthier lifestyle.
- Realistic: It’s important to set high goals for yourself, but don’t tell yourself that you have to achieve the impossible. If your goals are too high, you’ll get discouraged and possibly give up along the way. Does detoxing for a month seem like an impossible goal? Try detoxing for a week and going from there. You can even break up your goals into days or hours. Once you’ve achieved your smaller goals, you’ll have more success when it comes to the loftier goals.
- Time-Bound Goals: Make sure you place a time limit on your goals. If you tell yourself that you’ll start working out “whenever,” you’re going to keep putting it off. Set aside specific dates and times, then stick to the schedule that you laid out. For certain goals, you might want to give yourself a time limit, so you stay motivated.
What Questions Should You Ask Yourself?
Every time you set a goal, you need to make sure that you’re acting in your best interests. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking yourself these questions when you set a goal:
- Does this goal match your personal values?
- How will this goal help you?
- Why does this goal excite you?
At first glance, your goal of getting sober or improving your mental health might not seem like it has anything to do with your personal values. However, think about what you value and what you want to get out of life. Do you value kindness, patience, and honesty? Do you want to get the most of your life while you’re here? Getting clean and sober can help you live a life that aligns with your values and enables you to help other people along the way.
Needless to say, you’ll need to ask yourself how this goal will change your life. If it won’t change your life in a positive way, it’s probably not worth pursuing. You need goals that will make immediate, positive changes that can help you build the life that you’ve been dreaming about. You won’t be able to accomplish everything in a week, but each step should bring you closer to your ultimate goal.
Now for the fun part: why does this goal excite you? Think about how much your life will improve when you achieve this goal. When you think about the prospect of a happier, healthier future, you’ll find it a lot easier to stay motivated. Maybe you’ve had this goal for years, or maybe you discovered this goal a couple of weeks ago. Either way, give yourself credit for starting this exciting journey.
What Types of Goals Will You Set During Recovery?
Everyone’s situation is different. There’s no way to know exactly what kinds of goals you’ll set while you’re in recovery, but your therapist might have some suggestions. You probably have a few goals of your own in mind as you read this. Here are some examples of major, overarching goals that you might set during the recovery process:
- Detoxing from drugs or alcohol
- Getting treatment for your addiction to drugs or alcohol
- Learning healthy ways to cope with trauma and grief
- Getting therapy for your personal issues
- Improving your diet and getting more exercise
- Getting the tools that you need to live a better life after recovery
- Going through a full 12 Step recovery program
Of course, these are all major goals that need to be broken down into smaller steps. To achieve your ultimate goal, your therapist might suggest taking smaller steps like these:
- Meditating once a day
- Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day
- Seeing a therapist every week
- Journaling about your feelings
- Adding healthier foods to your diet
- Building a sober support network
- Reaching out to friends and family members
- Finding a new job
- Moving to a new location
- Dropping people, situations, and habits that don’t help you
How Do You Stay Motivated?
Once you’ve set your goals, you’ll need to keep working every day. If you let yourself slide once or twice, you might start putting off your goals and end up forgetting the whole thing altogether. Some people work better independently, but if you’re like most people, you might need a friend or family member to hold you accountable.
Tell others about your goals so they can remind you and help you stay on track. If you have someone looking out for you, you’ll find it easier to accomplish the goals that you set for yourself every day. The Mayo Clinic also recommends finding a role model who lives the example that you want to achieve. This can be a celebrity or someone that you know personally. Learn about their accomplishments and how they achieved their goals to enjoy a happy, successful lifestyle.
Marking your calendar is also a great way to stay motivated. Keeping a schedule can help you in two different ways: it helps you keep track of times and dates and gives you a feeling of accomplishment when you look at everything you’ve done over the past several weeks. If you’ve stuck to your goals for a month or more, you’ll be less likely to give up. How can you stop working now when you’ve come so far?
If possible, try to measure your accomplishments. It can be hard to rate your recovery status, but your therapist might suggest recording your daily mood or your level of cravings. You could also look at other aspects like your appetite, energy levels, number of hours that you slept, and more. For measurable goals like weight loss, it’s easy to record the changes that you’re experiencing as you go through recovery.
Take the First Step Toward Recovery
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking about entering a recovery center. You don’t have to make a decision right away, but take some time to browse our website or give our Admissions Specialists a call, and we can help you figure out your options. GRC offers a wide range of programs for men and women who are trying to lose their addictions, improve their mental health, and get their lives back on track.
Granite Recovery Centers offers a combination of individual and group therapy that helps you work on your mental health while assuring you that you’re not alone. You’ll also take part in various programs and create an aftercare plan that helps you stick to your new lifestyle after you leave.