Every New Year, millions of Americans commit to losing weight, quitting smoking, saving money or achieving some other form of self-improvement. But January isn’t the only time to make a resolution. Birthdays, anniversaries and major life events can all be cause for reflection.
We all want to be the highest and best version of ourselves. Why shouldn’t we set our eyes on some prize, like a healthier body, for example? Plus, American culture tells us that we are “supposed to” have a resolution of some kind. After all, everybody’s doing it, right?
The Reality of Resolutions – Most People Don’t Cross the Finish Line
There is a sad truth about New Year’s resolutions we should all be aware of. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, only 25 percent of those with resolutions will still be committed to accomplishing them just 30 days into the new year. And, just a meager eight percent will actually see their resolution come to fruition by the end of the year. Why is this?
There is a lot more to setting goals than just saying you want to do something. This is the problem with New Year’s resolutions. They are usually very vague. Most people say, “I want to lose weight” or “I want to save money” and the goal-setting process ends there. This is a set up for failure. Plus, few people actually write down their goals and devise a plan, which is a critical piece of the puzzle.
Let’s be clear. A New Year’s “resolution” is really just a fancy word for having a goal. There is great value in setting goals in recovery. The goal-setting process builds confidence, boosts self-esteem, promotes discipline, and encourages healthy living. Being intentional about life and achieving goals deepens our sense of purpose.
If you are setting goals in recovery this year, we want to increase your chance for success by introducing the SMART model for goal-setting. Let’s talk more about this.
SMART Goals – A Proven Model To Help You Set Goals in Recovery
Have you set a goal that you want to accomplish this year (AKA “a New Year’s resolution”)? If so, we want you to bring it to fruition. The SMART Model for setting goals will help. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let’s go deeper.
Specific – A goal should be specific. For example, instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” say, “I want to lose 60 pounds by losing five pounds a month while implementing aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean Diet.” Write down your goal. During this phase of goal-setting, you should answer some specific questions about how you will achieve your goal. (“I will walk one hour three times a week on the treadmill at my gym for the next year” or “I will not consume more than 1,500 calories a day,” etc.) Answering who, what, when, where, and how questions should help.
Measurable – A goal should be measurable. With the example we provided, the goal is a 60-pound weight loss in one year. This is measurable. If you simply said, “I want to lose weight,” you would not be able to tell if you had actually accomplished your goal. You could lose one pound and say, “Well, there it is. I have lost weight. I am done!” Weigh yourself at the beginning and end of the year. If you have lost 60 pounds, you have achieved your goal.
Achievable – Goals should be realistic and attainable. In other words, they should be within your reach. For example, losing 300 pounds in a year is not really an achievable goal. Losing five pounds a month for a total of 60 pounds in a year, however; is achievable. If you lose more than 60 pounds, great!
Relevant – Your goal should be relevant to your life. It should add to your life and make it better, not take away from it. For example, if you only weigh 100 pounds, you wouldn’t set out to lose 60. Also, is this goal relevant to your other goals and congruent with your desire to achieve a higher version of yourself? For instance, if you want to start wrestling and you need to gain weight, you obviously wouldn’t have a goal to lose weight.
Time-Bound – This is an important aspect of goal-setting. Not only do you want time parameters for measuring your goal (60 pounds in 12 months at five pounds a month), you also want to identify when you are going to start working on your goal. Plus, you will want to decide where you want to be at six weeks, six months, nine months, etc. For instance, you might start off working out once a week and then increase to twice a week after four weeks and then to three times a week at six weeks.
There you have it – the SMART Model for goal-setting. It is simple and straightforward. And, it greatly increases your chances for success when setting goals in recovery.
Keep in Mind, Setting Goals in Recovery Can Be Difficult For Those in Early Sobriety
If you are recovering from a substance use disorder, and you are in the first year of sobriety, the idea of setting goals in recovery can feel very overwhelming. After abusing drugs or alcohol for a significant period of time, it takes awhile to achieve a true sense of sanity and stability. In no uncertain terms, chaos accompanies addiction. It can take up to a full year (sometimes longer) to get acclimated to a sober lifestyle.
Recovery should always be a top priority, but this is especially true in the first year of sobriety. In the beginning, many people find that staying sober one day at a time is difficult enough. They cannot even think about taking on anything else because life feels too stressful.
The idea of setting weight loss goals, quitting smoking, saving money, getting out of debt, changing jobs, or going back to school can feel next to impossible. This is completely understandable and appropriate. There are a lot of obstacles to overcoming addiction. It is best to overcome these obstacles first before you attempt to tackle any major goals.
For example, if you are currently abusing drugs or alcohol, we encourage you to consider addiction treatment so you can get sober and get your life on track. If you feel stuck in the hopeless cycle of addiction, help is available.
If you have recently completed treatment or decided to get sober on your own, now is the time to start setting some short-term recovery goals. For example, a goal could be to stay sober for 30 days one day at a time. You also want to begin attending a 12-Step fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. And, you should also consider setting a timeline for working the 12 Steps – for example, to work the steps within the first 18 months of your recovery.
Your Life, Your Goals – You Got This
Wherever you may be on your sobriety journey, setting goals in recovery is always a great idea. They give life meaning and purpose. They give you something to strive for. Goal-setting is a way to enjoy a more structured lifestyle, which is what recovering people need in order to stay focused on the present moment and avoid relapse. Just remember the SMART Model and you are well on your way.
The beauty of recovery is that you are no longer enslaved by your addiction, which gives you the freedom to live your best life. No more going through alcohol withdrawal or being dope sick. This is great news! In sobriety, you can set whatever goals you want and they will actually be within your reach.
Remember, take it easy and give yourself a break. If you are new to sobriety, start small and focus on building a solid foundation in recovery. It’s okay to spend all your effort and energy in learning how to enjoy a sober lifestyle until you are ready to tackle other areas of your life.
Whether you call them New Year’s resolutions or just plain old “goals,” remember to enjoy the journey as you set out to achieve your goals in recovery.