Setting Realistic Goals in Recovery


Setting goals is essential in life and recovery. Goals help keep you focused, motivated, and accountable. Goals also help instill structure and fill parts of your day where you may succumb to boredom. While the idea of setting goals is a positive practice, sometimes the goals you set can be counterintuitive and work against you.

Such goals might be unrealistic and reach beyond what you are capable of doing. When you set unreasonable goals and expectations, you can create unnecessary stress, anxiety, and frustration that feels like failure when a goal is not accomplished. Practicing realistic goal setting is critical in avoiding negative outcomes. Let’s take a look at how you can set realistic goals that will benefit you and your recovery.

Reasonable Expectations

While it’s great to strive for new heights, your positive energy and optimism can sometimes lead you to lofty and unachievable recovery goals. It is more likely to happen in early recovery after just completing treatment because you are brimming with a newfound outlook and a sense of confidence. However, once your feelings balance out, you might realize that you have taken on too much. Setting reasonable expectations helps to pinpoint what you can and cannot do in a given amount of time. Remember, recovery moves at your pace, so it is okay to focus on one or two goals at a time.

Having reasonable expectations also helps instill confidence and a sense of accomplishment when goals are met. It also helps you look at goals as goals and not gauge them based on size or significance. For example, if making your bed is the only goal of the day, and you accomplish this, then that is worth acknowledging. When you have a reasonable outlook and meet goals, you are more likely to remain motivated to continue forward.

Make Goals Specific 

Generalizing goals in the setting phase—such as “I want to be happy” or “I want to be healthy”—hinders the process. While it is great to want to be happy and healthy, creating specific goals helps you establish how you’re going to become happy and healthy. Refining your approach and making detailed goals helps you better track your progress from beginning to end. Additionally, experiences logged along the way can offer insight into your mood and thought process.

Tracking your journey will help identify some triggers or stressors, and even offer insight into how to better cope. Identifying your feelings in relationship with your goals helps you strengthen the approach while keeping you on track. Having specific goals also cultivates good structure. Such specific goals could include:

  • Asking for forgiveness from a loved one
  • Confronting a difficult emotion
  • Expressing how you feel with a friend or family member

Quality Over Quantity 

Recovery is all about being able to prioritize, and setting goals is no different. While it is okay to have a lot that you want to improve, an endless list of sobriety goals might leave you unsure where to start.

Remember that everyone’s individual needs are unique, so trying to keep up with your peers in recovery will only harm your pace. Drawing inspiration from them is encouraged though, as it blossoms the same kind of drive and energy. That’s why focusing on your recovery and establishing goals that support quality, not quantity, is the key.

You might begin developing three to four thought-out goals that you want to pursue over the next month or so. If three to four goals are overwhelming, start by just working on staying sober each day. Focusing on the one goal of staying sober can help to keep you focused and strong when faced with challenges. It can also help keep things simple. Therefore it can be very reassuring knowing that all you need to do today is stay sober.

Be Patient

Learning how to set goals that keep you focused and motivated will take time; persistence and patience are key to recovery. There are bound to be unexpected mistakes and setbacks along the way, but remember, these are all necessary for learning and growth.

Additionally, there is never a “failed” opportunity or unmet goal. Sometimes mistakes happen and set you off on a new path towards reaching the same goal, and this is perfectly okay. The process helps you discover new things about yourself and this also helps you develop resilience. Therefore, if you miss a goal, you do not have to give up on it, rather look for ways to change your approach and try again. Recovery is a journey to be sustained over a lifetime, not accomplished in one day.

Setting realistic goals and expectations is a core element in establishing a healthy and lasting recovery. However, it can be difficult to identify what is reasonable or realistic. At Choice House, we work with men to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to setting goals and reasonable expectations. We accomplish this by offering both conventional and alternative models of therapy and treatment that will put you in real-world scenarios and therefore help you develop the tools needed to manage such challenges. We also offer a strong network of support for you to call upon and express yourself in times of need. Our goal is to release you from treatment with a newfound sense of self and self-confidence. If you are currently struggling in your recovery or with substances, then the time to seek help is now. To learn more, call Choice House today at (720) 577-4422

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