By: Philip Carroll, CPRS
Success. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose. In order for us to feel accomplished, first we need an aim or purpose. If we don’t have a target, how do we know we hit it?
When we first get exposed to the world of recovery, we have probably been focused on only one goal or purpose. To be high or drunk all the time. Because duh, who doesn’t want to be numb to the pains of daily life. Funny thing about being numb though, we can easily multiply our pain and turn it into suffering because we are not appropriately responding to life’s many situations. We’re anxious/insecure/ ambivalent about meeting our responsibilities, we get loaded, then we shirk those responsibilities until someone else confronts us and then we feel more anxious/insecure/ambivalent so we use more (repeat ad nauseum).
Pain is the way our mind/body lets us know something is wrong. Pain is not a bad thing, it serves a purpose in directing our will. The irony of addiction is in our efforts to avoid pain, we actually just delay and increase our pain. We come-to with a hangover, we see a barrage of text messages about “what happened last night”, we get ultimatums and interventions from concerned parties. In trying to avoid our internal mess of feelings and thoughts, we create external wreckages to clean up later. Wouldn’t it be smarter to focus our efforts on actually achieving what we wanted in the first place? Comfort, peace of mind, self-esteem, feeling connected to something bigger than ourselves. If that’s what we really wanted out of substances, what if we could be smarter and succeed in our lives instead of staying stuck?
Pain is unavoidable. Suffering, though, is optional. In my experience, one of the ways we can minimize suffering, change our relationship with pain, and actually feel like a success is to focus on SMART Goals.
So what are SMART Goals? SMART Goals are:
So how the heck do we use this to better our lives? Let’s take a closer look at an example. Let’s say “I want to be healthier” is a current goal of ours, which is a good start, but not a very SMART goal. What is “healthier”? How do we know we have better health? When do we move on to a new goal? A SMARTer goal would be: “I will eat salad once a day every day for two weeks and then assess my progress.”
If I don’t have specifics or limits to my goal, well then it is incredibly easy for me to rationalize “yea I’m trying to be healthier”. In the words of a master: “Do or do not, there is no try.” Just saying “I’m trying to be healthier” to ourselves is automatically leaving room for us to justify, rationalize, and minimize. Instead, if we tell ourselves and others “My current priority is improving my health, and here is what I’m doing to reach that goal…” well that statement packs more of a punch to our psyche. We can’t weasel our way out of it and count not doing anything as “trying”.
So if my goal is to have healthy self-esteem, instead of acting out with maladaptive antisocial behaviors, I can do esteemable works and start to build healthy self-esteem. If I want to think and feel better, first I have to take action. Thoughts and feelings will naturally follow after taking actions.
If we can focus on specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based goals, before we know it we will feel good about making progress, we will feel relief in having a clear direction to move forward, and we will begin to realize the many dreams we have had and lost.
I recommend to anyone and everyone who will listen, be SMART about your goals.
Success is within our grasp if we’re staying within our reach.