May 28, 2023 By Leah Malone

How to Create Intentional Goals in Recovery


To foster growth or healing in any area of life, goal-setting is necessary. Setting goals not only develops long-term vision but also short-term motivation. Those in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) or a co-occurring mental health disorder likely have goals of getting sober and sustaining healing. However, to effectively achieve these broader goals, individuals must work to create smaller, intentional goals to act as stepping stones in recovery.

Grace Recovery offers a variety of amenities for women in recovery to empower sobriety. To help with intentional goal-setting in recovery, Grace offers amenities such as experiential recovery coaching, case management, life skills building, and transitional living opportunities. Grace Recovery is dedicated to providing worthwhile guidance and support to help women build self-sufficient and fulfilling lives.

The Importance of Creating Intentional Goals in Recovery

Goal-setting allows a person to visualize the type of person they want to become and what they want to accomplish. When a person is in active addiction, substance abuse and self-pity become normal. Choosing sobriety and recovery are often uncomfortable choices, as it requires a person to accept their vulnerability and step into the unknown. Goal-setting is important for recovery because it fosters faith that healing is possible. This is the first step in creating motivation to establish sobriety and to put health over seemingly comfortable self-destructive behaviors.

However, individuals in recovery need to understand that having the ambition to create a goal is not enough on its own to achieve it. Goals must be intentional, detailed, and trackable. To accomplish a goal, a person must develop a variety of objectives to push them closer to their end goal. SMART objectives can help with this.

The Value of SMART Objectives

According to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, “The SMART criteria are a relatively well-known set of rules for goal specification. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed.” Intentional goals for recovery can be created using SMART criteria, as it encourages a person to consider all factors that may interfere with their ability to accomplish a goal.

A publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) highlights the difference between goals and objectives, which is necessary to understand when creating SMART goals. The publication explains that a goal is an anticipated or sought-out end result that relates to a person’s vision. Objectives, on the other hand, are the specific steps that a person must take to achieve their goal.

Identifying Smart Objectives for Goal-Setting

The SMART acronym can be used to create intentional objectives for a specific goal. In the aforementioned publication, SAMHSA offers a variety of useful tips for writing SMART objectives:

  • Specific: The objective is clearly stated, including what action will be done and who will accomplish it.
    • Provide enough detail to be clear yet concise.
  • Measurable: The objective identifies how the action will be measured over time.
    • Consider quality or quantity.
  • Attainable: The objective is realistic.
    • Ensure that one has the energy, time, and other resources necessary to accomplish the activity and end goal.
  • Relevant: The objective makes sense and addresses the vision of the end goal.
    • Consider reasons for pursuing the objectives and end goal.
  • Timebound: Each objective has a defined timeline for when it should be completed.
    • Include timeline benchmarks for each objective leading up to the end goal.

Using Smart Objectives to Create Intentional Goals

It is one thing to understand the importance of SMART objectives. It is another thing to know how to create and implement these objectives to create intentional goals in recovery. Keep in mind that both goals and objectives must be individualized to fit the unique needs and goals of an individual. Individuals in recovery must identify and address their values and priorities before attempting to break down larger goals into smaller ones.

To understand how to put SMART objectives to practice, it may help to consider the following common goal for those in recovery: to establish sobriety. While this goal may be intentional and is undoubtedly purposeful, having the goal to achieve sobriety is not enough on its own. To achieve this goal, a person may benefit from utilizing several SMART objectives to build a strong foundation for their sobriety.

Examples of Intentional Goals

Examples of SMART goals that a person in early recovery can utilize in an attempt to establish sobriety include:

  • Attend a minimum of two recovery-related services every week.
  • Practice one new coping skill every day when substance-use triggers or cravings arise.
  • Spend at least ten minutes every other day engaging in mindfulness practice to foster emotional regulation.
  • Discuss recovery progress with a trusted loved one every Monday evening.
  • Engage with a new fitness-related hobby at least once a week to bolster physical wellness and health.

It can be overwhelming to implement several goals at once. Therefore, individuals in recovery can work on implementing one new goal a week into their recovery until they feel that such goals have been accomplished. Undoubtedly, stacking goals over time will further an individual’s healing journey and ability to establish ongoing sobriety.

When you create intentional goals, this fosters the vision and motivation needed to accomplish them. Goal-setting in addiction recovery is undeniably important, as it can encourage you to use stepping stones when attempting to accomplish a large eng-goal such as establishing sobriety. SMART objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound) can help you as you create stepping stones to healing. Additionally, Grace Recovery offers a variety of amenities for women in recovery that can help with interventional goal-setting and empowerment. From transitional living homes to experiential recovery coaching and more, Grace can provide the support and guidance you need to sustain lasting healing from substance abuse and mental health distress. To learn more, call (737) 237-9663 today.

About Author

Leah Malone

Learning to sit with uncomfortable feelings can be painful and disturbing at times. When Leah was able to see her behavior patterns and decided there was enough pain to be disturbed, she became motivated to make changes and accept the work that needed to be done to heal. She needed direction and had no clue how to heal on her own. Through a connection with God, authentic connection with others, honesty, willingness, and humility, Leah is now in recovery from addiction and trauma.

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