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Recovery is more than just stopping the drinking or drug use, being in recovery means working toward health and wellness by living a conscious life and striving to reach your full potential.1

It’s no small thing and it’s requires enormous commitment and motivation...but when it works, the payoffs are outstanding.

Of course it doesn’t just happen, it takes work and planning and change – and it requires you to think about what you want, make plans and then work sensibly toward achieving your goals.

And since the setting and achieving of goals is such a big part of achieving successful recovery, most addiction treatment programs teach effective systems for framing goals to realize targeted outcomes.

In Recovery: How to Set Goals

In recovery you need to set longer-termmid-range and short-term goals.

1. Start by looking ahead and setting major long-term goals for the next 5 years or so.

2. Break these long-term goals into a few essential steps – and call these mid-range goals.

3. Finally, break mid-range goals down into their essential steps – short-term goals.

Then, by applying the SMART framework to short-term goals (you’ll learn how to do that in a moment) you’ll have a better probability of success.

And by realizing short-term goals, you eventually come to accomplish your mid and longer-term goals in life!

In Recovery: How to Achieve Short-Term Goals

To achieve recovery success, spin a number of short-term goals into larger objectives and make sure to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Relevant
  • T – Time Sensitive

By organizing your goals along this framework, you clearly define your goal and you can see clearly if you achieve success. You also take care in the goal setting stage to set yourself up for success by ensuring your goals are realistic, helpful, relevant and doable within a realistic period of time.

Read on below for a case study example of how applying the SMART framework to short-term goals helps a person realize loftier longer-term objectives.

SMART Goals: A Case Study Example

Jim is a 26 year old recovering heavy marijuana and alcohol user. He dreams of becoming a doctor but due to his past heavy drinking and drug use, he dropped out just months prior to graduating from high school.

With hard work, his dreams are very attainable, but setting only a wide and distant goal like ‘becoming a doctor’ isn’t particularly helpful.

  • How do you do that, exactly?
  • How do you know if you’re on the right track?

With a Long-Term Goal Identified - Set Mid-Range Goals

To accomplish his long-term objective he needs to work toward reaching mid-range goals. Some examples of mid-range goals that might get Jim closer to his long-term goal are: getting into university, making sure he continues to work his recovery program, getting financially stable and able to pay for educational pursuits, etc.

Setting Short-Term Goals

To accomplish a mid-range goal, you need to break it up into smaller, shorter-term, achievable and measurable goals. So, for example, to get into university, some of the short-term goals Jim might work toward include: finishing a GED and building a ‘resume’ of volunteer experiences to help with a college application and acceptance chances.

Applying the SMART Framework to a Short-Term Goal

By using the SMART framework you increase your chances of achieving your goals, but you can’t just juggle thoughts in your head - hold yourself accountable by writing it down, defining your objectives (no matter how small) and outlining how you’ll measure your progress along the way.

So for any goal (we’ll use the goal of completing a GED as an example) grab a piece of paper and along the left-hand side, write out the letters S.M.A.R.T, and then proceed to outline how your plan satisfies each element of the SMART framework. For example:

  • Specific = My specific goal is to pass a GED exam by November, in 12 weeks time.
  • Measurable = Measuring my outcome is pretty easy, either I pass or I don’t. I will measure my progress up until the test date by taking practice tests once a week. If my scores do not continue to improve as the weeks pass, then I will know I need to study harder.
  • Achievable? = Although I am a bit rusty, I was a reasonably good student who dropped out only a few months short of completing my degree. With a couple of months of study and review I should have little difficulty passing the GED
  • Relevant? = Without the GED I cannot get into university so the GED is a necessary step toward becoming a doctor, thus it is relevant and worthy of my efforts.
  • Time Specific = I must complete the test by November to have sufficient time to prepare to submit applications in the New Year.

Set Long, Middle and Short-Term Goals for Yourself

The addicted life is passive and reactive; the recovery life is conscious and proactive.

In recovery you work to build the life you want and as a side benefit, this also helps keep you clean and sober.

But dreams don’t just come true; you have to work for them and unless you set clear goals and develop a system for achieving them, a lot of your effort just goes to waste.

So this is your chance! You’re in recovery now and you have the opportunity to build the life you’ve always wanted!

  1. To get started, look in your heart and soul and find that thing that makes life worth living – and then build a long-term goal around it.
  2. Once you’ve got this, the rest is simply mechanics and sweat. Once you’ve got a long-term mission, just break it down into medium-range goals to get you closer, and then break each mid-range goal into short-range goals.
  3. And then be smart and use the SMART framework - and find success as you cross those short-term goals off your list on route to something great!
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Page last updated Jul 02, 2013

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