As the New Year approaches, people tend to look toward the future with grand plans of how this next year will be better than the previous. The first of January seems to hold more promise and possibility than any other day of the year. The notion that this day must be taken advantage of to kickstart a new chapter of life is common and pervasive in everyday conversations and the media. While it is true that a new year presents the opportunity to make changes and improve your life, this idealism needs to be rooted in reality in order for any lasting good to come of it. Setting effective goals can turn vague hopes into an actionable plan.
If you are working to maintain your sobriety during this new year, it is essential to set goals. Recovery is a process that requires planning and commitment, and taking the time to outline your path forward will set you up for success.
Orient Yourself Toward Action
When we set goals, we are often correcting behavior that we deem unacceptable. For example, if you sleep until noon on the weekends and feel that you are wasting the day, you may set the following goal: “I will not sleep until noon on the weekend.” Similarly, if you often pick up fast food on the way home from work, you might set this goal: “I will no longer order fast food after work.”
Ideally, goals should not be negative. Being able to recognize that your current pattern of behavior is not serving you and identifying that you need to make a change is an important first step, but it is not the ultimate destination. Simply removing a behavior, such as no longer eating takeout, does not leave anything in its place. This makes the goal difficult to act on.
We need something to work toward when we want to change something about our lives. Reframing goals to make them positive consequently makes them actionable. Planning to wake up at 9 a.m. on the weekends or cook dinner after work will set you up for success as opposed to simply condemning the fact that you wake up at noon or eat fast food.
This also applies to the goals you set for your recovery. Simply telling yourself that you will not drink or use drugs will not lead to revolutionary and sustainable change if you do not have a plan and the appropriate support. If quitting were as simple as that, addiction would not be the disease that it is. Recovery involves taking action regarding both the substance use itself and general self-care and health maintenance to support overall well-being.
Some action-oriented goals you could set to support your recovery include:
- I will work with a mental health professional this year
- In January, I will start attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
- This year I will spend time with friends and family who do not use substances
- Each night I will get eight hours of sleep
- I will exercise four times a week
Achieving Your Goals: SMART Goals
Once you have set an actionable goal, it is time to create a plan for that action. One way to develop goals that you can achieve is to create a “SMART” goal. SMART goals derive their name from being:
Let’s use the example above about working with a mental health professional to apply the SMART goal method.
Specific goals have a clear objective and narrow scope. There is no ambiguity or vagueness about what you are trying to achieve. If you wish to work with a mental health professional to overcome your substance use disorder, you should consider the specifics of that idea. Where would you like to attend therapy? What type of therapist would you like to work with?
Measurable goals have metrics by which to track progress. In this example, your metric could be the number of therapy sessions you would like to have per month. Keeping up with this number would indicate that you are making progress toward your goal.
Achievable goals are possible to obtain. They are not outlandish or unsustainable. Realistic goals are similar; however, take into account whether something can be achieved with the resources you have and the situation you are in. For example, you should take into account whether you can afford a certain therapist or whether you can attend sessions between certain hours due to work or other obligations.
While it is important for goals to be feasible, it is also important not to make them too easy. When you make a goal that is too easy, it can lead to decreased effort and, therefore, not much change. Part of setting achievable and realistic goals is also taking into account the challenges that might arise and planning for them. Your plan will not always work out perfectly, but if you are prepared, this can be taken in stride.
Timed goals have a set deadline. When goals do not have a timeframe, it can be easy to postpone action and procrastinate. Determining the date that you will schedule your first appointment with a therapist and following through on that plan is an example of creating a timed goal.
When you put all those components together, you might come up with a goal that looks like this: “I will work with a mental health professional this year to help my addiction. On Friday, I will call the office and schedule an appointment with a therapist who takes my insurance and can see me on days when I do not work. I will attend one session per week.”
The New Year presents many opportunities for change and improvements. It can be a motivating time because it feels like a clean slate. When setting goals, it is crucial to make them possible to obtain and sustain over time. This is especially important as you develop a plan for your recovery. Addiction can be treated and overcome, and working with a mental health professional can help you stay on the right path. Family-Centered Services is proud to offer a comprehensive array of services for you and your family, including individual and family therapy, a Family Recovery Program, case management, and a sober accountability program. Reach out to us at (509) 991-5822 to start your recovery journey this year.