Anyone who has viewed a big, red, button with the words “Don’t Touch!” posted over it knows that telling ourselves not to do something is difficult. The thing that we are prohibited from can become the only thing that we think about. Our time and energy will be spent on avoiding that negative behavior, and there will be little resource left for looking forward.
With any behavior change, it is more effective to be proactive than it is to be inactive. Instead of making an overall promise to refrain from using drugs or alcohol this next year, try making a new year’s resolution to complete some of your goals toward a better you. It is highly unlikely that drugs or alcohol are part of that equation, which means that your continued sobriety will be a built-in factor.
The SMART Way to Plan
When it comes to new year’s resolutions, where many people tend to go wrong is in the planning stage. In fact, there are often very few plans made in regard to how these expressed intentions will be manifested. This lack of solid planning is most likely why up to 80% of people report failing to achieve what was desired.
It is not enough to simply want something different to happen. As many people in recovery already know, we have to make it happen. Designing SMART goals is a reliable way to go about ensuring that you will be patting yourself on the back for your accomplishments at the beginning of the next year.
S is for Specific
When setting out to achieve your goals for the new year, it is important that you first design what they are. Without knowing exactly what your target is, it is very difficult to aim for it. You might as well be shooting an arrow into the wind.
The first step in forming a specific goal is identifying the general area that you wish to address. This may be a desire to achieve a lower weight, to have a better relationship with a loved one, or to get a better job. As there are not very many goals which won’t require a series of steps toward reaching them, your next task is to define what it is that you need to enact in order to reach this eventual goal.
With weight-related goals, for example, setting a target weight is only one small piece of the plan. It is likely that you will need to change your eating habits. Perhaps you will need to purchase a gym membership, or set a schedule for daily exercise. All of the changes which will need to take place in order for your weight loss to occur will need to be included in this stage of being specific about your game plan. Take some time and brainstorm on what things need to happen on the way to making your targeted change a reality.
M is for Measurable
Once you have the pieces of your plan in place, it is time to make them measurable. Being able to monitor our progress in tangible ways is part of the formula for success. Rather than setting your measurement at the end of the year, find ways to measure out your sequential steps to get there.
With relationship goals, for example, simply stating that we want our relationship with our significant other to be better is not a measurable goal. How will you know when that state of “better” has been reached? By working out what it is that the relationship currently lacks, you will be able to monitor progress toward improving it.
It may be that you want to reduce the amount of arguments that are occurring to no more than once a week, or that you want to increase the amount of quality time that is spent together to be at least one hour a day. These smaller improvements can be set out to increase over the coming months, and your steady progress toward meeting these milestones can be tracked in a ledger.
A is for Attainable
While working through how you are going to measure your progress toward a goal, it is important to keep the reality of your circumstances at the forefront of your mind. What you don’t want to do is set yourself up for failure. Be honest when assessing your personal strengths and limitations, and set a goal which is customized to who you are.
For those who have a new career goal in mind, for example, it is important to consider the amount of education that goes into gaining the credential or degree that is necessary. Are you one who despises sitting in a classroom? Have you always struggled with basic math? If so, you will need to adjust your goals to include aspects like coursework which can be completed from home, or to include space for taking a remedial math class at the adult school.
R is for Relevant
Some could argue that the aspect of relevance would be better off coming first in the line of planning, but putting it first would mess up the catchy acronym. When planning for your future, it is always important to consider your motivations for wanting these changes. Take some time to consider whether you are making these changes for yourself, or to please others. Are you working from an internal desire for change, or from outside pressure to make something of yourself? Having intrinsic motivation for making change is much more sustainable than motives for ourselves which are imposed by others.
T is for Time Limited
It is a very human tendency to procrastinate. We will put things off until the very last minute, and will put ourselves through the stress of not knowing if we will actually make it in time. When forming your SMART goals for the new year, make sure to include concrete time limits for reaching each of your targeted steps. As with the other aspects of your plan, it is better to keep a monthly – or even weekly – measure of progress.
Each step you take towards bettering yourself is another step down the path of sobriety. If you’re looking for a more structured environment to help you abstain from drugs and alcohol while you pursue your personal goals, see if a sober living community is right for you.