How to set your own goals in sobriety
One of the most exciting prospects you’ll discover in sobriety is the magic in setting goals. Of course, you would have several plans while drinking or using, but you will see that they were mostly unrealistic in hindsight.
In recovery, things happen. You meet new people. You find yourself in interesting places. You make it through difficult times with a minimum of chaos. Problems get solved. Your needs and wants get met. Dreams come true.
You are ecstatic about goal setting. There is nothing in the world like going where we want to go, getting what we want, solving a problem, or doing something you always wanted.
Goals give us direction and purpose
While addicts spend many years of their lives not even bothering to think about what they wanted and needed, where they wanted to go, and what they wanted to do. Life was to be endured. They don’t think they deserve good things. They don’t believe good things are within their reach. They don’t think about living their life; they are too focused on their substances.
Of course, we can’t control all the events in our lives. We certainly don’t have the final say on much of anything (God does). But we discover that we can cooperate with goodness. We can plan, make requests, and set a process in motion.
“Desire, when harnessed, is power,” wrote David Schwartz in his best-seller, The Magic of Thinking Big. Failure to follow desire, do what you want to do most paves the way to mediocrity. “Success requires heart and soul effort, and you can only put your heart and soul into something you really desire.”
Goals also give us direction and purpose. We don’t get into our car, turn on the ignition, start driving, and hope we’ll get someplace. We decide where we want to go, then steer the car in that direction. That’s how you try to live your life too. Sometimes things happen, and you may not end up where you wanted to go for a variety of reasons.
If you change your mind or problems beyond your control interfere, you find yourself doing something other than what you had planned to do. Timing and exact circumstances may vary. That’s okay. You usually end up someplace better or someplace that is better for you. That is where the lessons you learnt in addiction recovery help you: acceptance, trust, faith and letting go. At least you are driving aimlessness through life. Or fighting a daily battle to score and survive.
Goals are fun
They generate interest and enthusiasm in life. They make life exciting. Goals cure boredom. Goals even cure many chronic ailments.
There is magic in setting and writing down goals. It puts into motion a powerful psychological, spiritual, and emotional force. You become aware of and do the things you need to do to achieve and accomplish. Things come to you. Things begin to happen!
What are your goals? What do you want to happen in your life – this week, this month, this year, for the next five years? What problems do you want to be solved? What material things would you like to possess? What changes do you want to make in yourself? What would you love to do for a career? What do you want to accomplish?
How to be successful at goal-setting
There are several guides on how you should set goals. Following are some ideas. Find a way that works for you.
- Turn everything into a goal. If you have a problem, make its solution your goal. You don’t have to know the answer. Your goal is to solve this problem. Do you want something? A new bed, a new pair of jeans, a new car, longer hair? Turn it into a goal. Do you want to go someplace – Europe, India, a dog show? Do you want a loving, healthy relationship? Turn that into a goal too. Is there something you always wanted to do – go to school, work for a particular institution, make £50,000 a year? Turn it into a goal. Do you need to decide what you want to do for a career? Turn making a decision into a goal. Do you want to change something about yourself – learning to say no, making a particular decision, resolving resentments with certain people? Turn it into a goal. Want to form new relationships, lose or gain weight, quit worrying, stop controlling? Want to learn to have fun, achieve acceptance, forgive someone? You can successfully turn every aspect of your life into a goal.
- Omit the shoulds. We have enough should controlling our lives; we don’t need them in our goals. Make it a goal to get rid of 75 per cent of your shoulds.
- Don’t limit yourself. Go for all of it: everything you want and need, all the problems you want to be solved, all your desires, and even some of your whims. Don’t worry. If you’re not supposed to have it, you won’t get it anyway. If you are supposed to have it, you’ll stand an improved chance of getting it by turning it into a goal.
- Write your goals on paper. There’s extraordinary power in jotting down goals rather than storing them loosely in your mind. You worry less, you have less to think about, and it gives focus and organization to your goals.
- Let go. Keep your goals close, where you can look at them as you need, but don’t worry or obsess about how, when, and what if.
- Do what you can, one day at a time. Within the framework of each 24-hour day, do what seems fitting and appropriate. Do what you are inspired to do. Do what comes your way that needs to be done. Do it in peace and faith.
- Set goals regularly and as needed. You may write down goals annually and then write down objectives as they occur throughout the year. If you face a problem, spot a need, feel a new want, turn it into a goal and add it to your list. You may choose to write down all the things you want and need to accomplish on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
- Chalk off the goals you reach. Yes, you will start reaching your goals. Your wants and needs will get met. You will achieve certain things that are important to you. When this happens, congratulate yourself, and thank God. You will gain confidence in yourself, in goal setting, and in the rhythm of life this way. Your faith will also get reinforced. Sometimes, you may experience a letdown when you reach a goal. Especially if it’s been an important goal that’s required much energy or if you’ve indulged in “magical thinking” about achieving it. (Magical thinking includes thoughts such as, “I will live happily ever after once this problem is solved” or “I will live happily ever after once I get a new car”). Remember, you will never reach a goal or solve a problem that will enable you to live happily ever after. Life goes on, and you try to flow with it as happily and peacefully as you can. Problems arise. Problems get solved. Dreams are born. Dreams are realised. Then, more problems arise. New dreams emerge. But it’s all okay.
- Be patient. Trust in God’s timing. Don’t take an item off the list if it’s still important to you just because you didn’t achieve it; the wretched shoulds infiltrate every area of our lives. Sometimes, our goals carry over for years. Dennis Wholey wrote in his book on alcoholism, The Courage to Change: “I’ve started to realise that waiting is an art, that waiting achieves things. Waiting can be very, very powerful. Time is a valuable thing. If you can wait two years, you can sometimes achieve something that you could not achieve today, however hard you worked, however much money you threw up in the air, however many times you banged your head against the wall….”
Things happen when the time is right – when we’re ready, when God is ready, when the world is ready. Don’t fight. Let go. But keep it on your list.