Everyone has dreams and goals. They might be as lofty as landing a dream job, or as simple as getting all the laundry done in one day. You might have a goal to graduate college with a 4.0 GPA or get to the gym four times by the end of the week. And yet how frequently do we find these goals and dreams falling to the wayside, replaced by something that came up?
Repeatedly setting goals and failing to meet them can be a frustrating process, with the consequence of refusing to ever set goals in the first place. However, the problem is likely not with the goals themselves — the problem is with the path we take to get to them. Setting your sights on an improved workout routine is a great goal, and an achievable goal, but it’s how you strive toward it that determines whether or not you’ll reach it.
Allow us to explain.
Meeting five criteria when setting goals
Think of setting your goals like this: meet one criterion at a time in order to achieve the final goal.
In fact, there’s a handy acronym designed to help you do just that. It’s called a SMART goal, and it is key to narrowing down vague goals into achievable steps. Learning how to write a SMART goal is a simple, and surefire way to keep you motivated and accountable.
SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound
When you write your SMART goal, you need to know exactly what you want. Otherwise, where do you begin? For example, let’s say you want to up your meal-prepping game. That’s a great goal, but vague. In order to be specific, you need to be able to answer these questions:
- What do you want to achieve?
- Why do you want to achieve it?
- Who is going to help you achieve it?
- Where will you achieve it?
- Which tools will you need along the way?
Here’s an example of a concrete meal-prepping goal, one that answers the above questions:
“In order to practice life skills (cooking) and improve the health of my diet, I want to spend 60 minutes in my kitchen each Saturday preparing ingredients and putting together meals for the week ahead.”
This goal sounds more quantifiable — and more easily accomplished — than “I want to get better at planning meals.”
In order to stay motivated, you need to be able to see how far you’ve come! To set a measurable goal, ask yourself questions like, “How do I know that this goal has been accomplished?” In our meal preparation example, you could start by choosing to make one large batch of chili to last you three lunches. Or, you could cut up enough vegetables to fill five sandwich bags so you have veggies to eat with lunch every day. That way, when you only fill three bags, you know you have a few more cucumbers left to chop.
This step is pretty self-explanatory: a goal needs to be attainable or you’ll overwhelm yourself with too large or unreasonable of a task. If you don’t have time to cook lunch and dinner to cover every day of the week, don’t expect yourself too! Instead, focus on achieving bite-sized goals that foster confidence and promote a sense of self-worth. You’ll be more motivated to get the work done when you can see the fruits of your efforts.
If a goal doesn’t matter to you and it contradicts other goals you’ve set for yourself, it’s probably not a forward-thinking goal worth pursuing. You need to set goals in alignment with each other. They must be important to you; otherwise, why waste the time? So if you want to start eating more healthily, don’t plan meals loaded with sugar or carbohydrates. It goes without being said, but if you set goals you don’t care to achieve, you won’t ever achieve them.
When defining your goal, ask what you can do right now, tomorrow, next week, etc. about your objective. In fact, wedding planners use this method to keep tasks from piling up at the last second. Take the time to build out a checklist of things to do six months before, three months, one month, and all the way down to the day before you want to complete your goal(s). This method will keep you on time and on pace for goal completion.
Your goals should reflect this mentality. Sticking to our meal planning example, perhaps today you could select the two meals you want to make and write out a grocery list. Tomorrow, you can go to the grocery and come home to start cooking. By 6:00 p.m., you have both meals prepared and portioned out, ready to grab from the fridge on the way to work the following morning.
Setting SMART goals
By learning to write and pursue SMART goals, you’ll find yourself not only motivated but accountable and meeting goals you had only dreamed of achieving. In the long run, detailing each part of your goal saves time and energy and spares you the feeling of frustration. Perhaps the first time you write out your goal, it’s a little too big or a little too vague. Take a deep breath, let your previous attempt teach you what is or is not achievable for you, and give it another go. At Real Recovery, we understand that setting and reaching goals is a part of the journey, especially if it’s a journey away from alcohol or drug use habits and toward freedom.
If you’re ready to put SMART goals to work in sustaining sobriety, Real Recovery is ready to help. Call 1-855-363-7325 or contact us online to learn even more about our integrative approach to freedom through substance use recovery.