May 27, 2020
Recovery from an addiction is one of the most difficult journeys one can take, regardless of the addiction you’re trying to overcome. It would probably be quite a bit easier if you had nothing else in your life that needed your attention, but who has that life?
Like everyone else, people in recovery have families, debt, health issues and work problems. And, like everyone else, people in recovery have dreams and hopes and, ideally, goals. I say “ideally” because I’ve found that having goals can make up for a lot, in terms of motivation, weak moments and difficult choices. In that sense, a goal can be a good substitute for a North Star, helping you stay on course when other markers on the path seem to have gone dark.
It’s a sad irony, then, that goals can be harder to come by during recovery, at least at the beginning. If you’ve been humbled by poor decisions you’ve made as an addict, or by failures at reaching earlier goals, your enthusiasm for goal setting might be understandably dampened.
As well, there’s a “day by day” mentality you might be following in terms of your recovery, which keeps your focus closer in, on the near-term challenge of walking the path you’ve chosen.
That all makes sense, but I’m still going to promote the idea of goal-setting, even in micro, as a powerful tool for creating a forward pull for the year. The micro part refers to setting smaller goals, or creating small steps for a larger goal, to guard against biting off too much at once. A challenge is good, but feeling as if you’ve instantly failed isn’t so great. Much better to achieve a sequence of small victories during this period when you’re also managing your recovery process.
So what kinds of goals might you set? Since this is a careers column, I’ll suggest a few in the context of jobs or job search. You don’t have to adopt these, but they might help spark ideas of your own.
To learn a process so well I could teach it to others
To join a committee so I can broaden my reach in the organization
To redeem an unused benefit, such as taking a class or attending a conference
To strengthen a skill I’m not confident about, such as public speaking
To find a mentor who can guide me in my work this year
Job search goals
To find a support group that makes job search feel more doable
To join a professional association to meet more people in my field
To create a schedule so job search is a daily routine
To finish the basic steps, such as making a resume and creating a LinkedIn profile
To practice interviewing so I have answers for difficult questions
Did you notice that these sets of goals fit the definition of “micro”? For the work-based list, the larger goal could be “improve my work life” or something equally unwieldy. That’s a pretty good formula for dropping the ball almost immediately. Using a set of micro goals lets you make progress on improving your work life while giving you more direction in actual steps to take.
Likewise, the job search goals are all part of the larger “Find a job” concept, but they provide a smaller series of steps to help keep you from being overwhelmed. If you want to build your own set of micro goals for the year, it’s fine to start with something big, such as “get a promotion,” but then you’ll want to try your hand at breaking it down into more manageable parts.
Another advantage of the micro-goal concept is that you can re-start more easily if something pulls you off course. In that case, you’ll just need to backtrack to the last step and pick up where you left off.
This method of goal setting isn’t specific to people in recovery — it’s a good process for anyone who wants to create a steady march forward in terms of checking things off the list on the way to a larger objective. Even so, if this turns out to be a good tool for you, it might become one of your “gifts of recovery.” That is, one of the good things that you learn on the road you’re taking to being a better you.