The end of another year is here and we all have an opportunity to grow if we choose to do so.
This is a chance to reflect and get organized about your goals for the future.
What do you have planned for future growth? What changes are you excited about making in your life?
Perhaps you have not thought much about it yet? Let’s do so now.
The new year is arbitrary but we are not always rational, so take advantage of the opportunity!
The beginning of the new year is an arbitrary time period–I will admit that much. To suggest that this is the only time to get organized about personal growth would be a mistake.
But the opportunity is there–we have just been given this big reminder, because that is what our society has deemed acceptable….this is when we set our goals, right? Of course we don’t have to do it right now, but we should take advantage of the opportunity, especially if it feels like we have not been pushing ourselves to make much progress lately.
In other words, setting new year’s resolutions is rather arbitrary, but if it will help us, then we might as well take advantage of doing so.
With that in mind, let’s use the new year as an opportunity to set our lives into action, to move closer to the goals that we want to accomplish.
Hopefully we can ask some of the right questions in this article that will get you into thinking about what you really want in life, and thus what goals you should focus on in 2013.
Suggestions if you happen to still be struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism
Your new year’s resolutions should reflect your current progress in life and your current situation. There is no perfect goal for every person because everyone’s situation is unique.
If you happen to still be struggling with addiction or alcoholism then your first priority in life is almost certainly going to be to get clean and sober. This should be your first priority in 2013 because all other goals that you might set for yourself will likely hinge on sobriety anyway.
In other words, you could ignore the goal of sobriety and set a bunch of other goals for yourself, but if you do so and continue to drink or use drugs then you will likely just backslide when it comes to those other goals.
If you are serious about your goal then I would get even more specific with it and not just “promise to do something about your problem in 2013” or anything like that. Get specific. State your goal more like this:
“During the first week of 2013 I will make arrangements to get into a detox unit in a rehab or treatment center.”
Notice how much more effective that stated goal will be than just saying something vague like “I’m gonna cut down on my drinking in 2013.” Get specific and arrange your goal so that it actually achieves meaningful results.
To be ultra clear on this:
If you are still abusing drugs or alcohol then you only need to make one New Year’s resolution. That resolution should be to get yourself into treatment as quickly as possible in 2013. You can make all sorts of excuses or try to squirm your way out of this as much as you like but that is the simple truth of it. You need to get to rehab as your most important goal in 2013. Everything else is a distant second to that goal. If you try to argue that there are other, more important goals that you might pursue then you are just kidding yourself. Getting clean and sober will be the most positive change that you can make, by far.
Now you might hear of some similar suggestions for people who are struggling with addiction such as:
“Resolve to get to an AA or NA meeting in 2013.”
“Vow to go to counseling in 2013.”
“Cut down on drinking or drugs in 2013.”
None of these are as powerful as my suggestion that you should get to professional treatment as soon as possible.
Notice that if you go to rehab then all of these alternative suggestions are also encompassed in the idea of going to treatment (you will likely be exposed to counseling, meetings, etc. while at rehab).
If you are still using drugs or alcohol then your New Year’s resolution is to get checked into a treatment center.
It doesn’t matter if you have gone to rehab in the past and failed at it. Most people who get clean and sober at rehab have been there more than once, so get over that idea. You still need professional help as your biggest priority in life. The new year is the perfect time to embrace this concept and realize that you need to go get help.
Suggestions if you are clean and sober but still in early recovery
If you are still in early recovery but you are already clean and sober then you have a huge opportunity in front of you.
Your entire strategy in recovery should revolve around setting new goals for yourself. The new year is just another opportunity for you to pause and reflect on how far you have come so that you can design your future growth for yourself. This is a time of planning.
If you are already clean and sober then your biggest priority is to hang on to your precious sobriety and avoid relapse. You can best do this by engaging in personal growth. That said, we need a way to prioritize our growth efforts in recovery.
We can do that with the help of one simple principle:
Principle of goal setting: Clear wreckage first
When you are trying to prioritize what you will focus on in 2013, I want you to keep this principle in mind.
The principle is counter-intuitive and therefore it is very important that you understand it. It is this:
* You will benefit more from eliminating negative aspects of your life than you will from chasing positive rewards.
This principle should always be kept in mind as you set your goals for 2013.
So basically you want to take a step back and look at your life. Maybe you have a number of goals that you want to possibly tackle. Let’s say that your goal list looks like this:
* Learn a new skill in a community college.
* Spend more time with a family member.
* Get into shape.
* Quit smoking cigarettes.
* Fix your financial situation.
Now what you would do is to go through this list one at a time and find the negative things. Ask yourself with each item: “Does this goal involve fixing something that is holding me back in life? Does this goal involve fixing something that is keeping me miserable in some way?”
What you want to do is to identify your “points of misery” and focus on eliminating those as your main priority.
This is counter-intuitive. Most people would say that you would get the most happiness from pursuing a goal on that list such as “spend more time with a family member.”
But this is not really addressing a point of misery. Instead, look carefully at the list again. There are 2 points of misery on that list that stand out to me. They are:
* Smoking cigarettes.
* Poor finances.
Those two things need to be fixed as the main priority. Those two things need to be addressed before the other goals are tackled.
Because they are negative elements that are holding a person back in life. Even if you chase the other 3 goals with all of your energy, you are still going to be miserable because of those 2 “points of misery.”
Therefore you have just learned how to prioritize your goal setting for the new year. You must list out all of your possible goals that you might pursue, then zero in on the biggest points of misery.
You get the most bang for the buck when you focus on eliminating these “points of misery” rather than by chasing other seemingly more positive goals.
Eliminating the negative stuff from your life does far more for you than you realize.
So when it comes to prioritize your growth in recovery, look carefully at your life to find your points of misery. Seek to eliminate those as your most important goals.
Ask yourself: “What is the most important change that I could make right now in my life?”
There is another way to prioritize your goal setting in recovery, and that is another fairly simple principle:
* Tackle the big stuff first.
Why do this?
Because the little stuff takes care of itself!
Again, this is important because it can be counter-intuitive.
If you try to micro manage your entire life and pay too close attention to all of the little details, then you will never have enough time to tackle your really big and meaningful goals.
For example, let’s say that you have the goal of getting into shape and becoming a distance runner in 2013. If that is your goal then you need to make it the priority and make sure all of the little goals get put behind this one. This may seem obvious but how many people give up on their fitness goals because “they just don’t have time?” Quite a few! Obviously this is a problem of priorities.
If you have a “really big goal” that is extremely important to you, then you need to put that priority into practice every day like you really mean it. Wake up and exercise before you have a chance to say “no” to this new goal. Put your most important goal first in your life so that the little stuff does not over run your efforts.
Another example is when I was building my own business. I would come home from my day job each day and be completely exhausted and have a million excuses as to why I could not work on my business. I realized that I was not prioritizing properly, so I simply changed my schedule around. I woke up an hour earlier each day and put in a solid hour on the new business every single day before doing anything else. You can imagine how this transformed my results after six months. Instead of having excuses I had put my most important goal first. This is how to prioritize in your life.
Take a step back in your life and decide what the most important change is that you could possibly make. Think about all of the different goals that you might pursue and decide which one would have the biggest positive impact for you (keeping in mind the concept about eliminating points of misery from your life).
What is the one thing that could change everything for you? What is the one thing that, if achieved, would have the biggest positive impact on your life?
You need to identify what that goal is and then create a plan to tackle that goal. But even more than that, you need to take deliberate action in order to prioritize that goal in your life. Don’t just say “Yeah, I really need to get into shape this year” (if that is your big goal). Turn this into your priority and then design your life around achieving this goal. Rearrange your schedule in order to prioritize the goal. Is there a possibility that your goal gets pushed to the side as “real life” takes over and you start making excuses? If this is a possibility then you may need to make changes in order to prevent this from happening. You may need to find ways to rearrange your life and your schedule in order to accommodate your new priorities in life.
An idea for you: Set 2 big goals for 2013. One lifestyle goal and one non-lifestyle goal.
Here is another idea for you:
Make two resolutions for the new year. One of them should be a “lifestyle goal” (quitting smoking, losing weight, exercise, eating healthy, etc.). The other goal should be something other than a lifestyle change, such as a career or education goal.
This can be a helpful way to prioritize because then your efforts are more balanced. It can be difficult to try to make too many lifestyle changes all at once without first balancing this with some other forms of growth.
So your lifestyle goal might be to get into shape by exercising on a regular basis. If that is the case then you should make the goal specific enough so that you can actually measure it and stick with it (such as: I will exercise for 45 minutes 3 times per week. You might even get more specific than that by designating what counts as “exercise!”).
Then you may have a “regular” goal that is not a huge lifestyle change, such as applying for a job in a new field.
Having two different types of goals can help bring some balance into your life. Usually when I have done this in the past I notice that one goal works out really well and the other goal sort of fizzles. But just think about this: This is much better than no growth at all, right? At least you are making some progress, even if both goals do not work out perfectly!
That said, I really like the idea of focus when it comes to goal setting. You do not just want to set dozens of goals and hope that if you struggle a bit and make an effort that one or two of them will work out. This is not my kind of strategy at all. Instead, I think it is important to zero in on the one thing that could have the biggest impact, and really put in a full effort to make that one goal happen. Use extreme focus, find your biggest goal, and tackle it with all of your available energy. This is the formula that has brought me much success.
Ask yourself: “What is the one big change that I could make that would change my whole world and have the biggest impact?”
What is the biggest goal on your plate right now?
Have you really thought about it? What would you most like to achieve?
Think about it like this:
* What would you do in life right now if you new for certain that you could not fail? If you were sure to achieve any goal that you set for yourself? What would you do then?
New year’s resolutions may be rather arbitrary, but that does not mean that this is not a huge opportunity for each of us.
Take advantage of the idea and evaluate your life. What do you want to accomplish in 2013? What are you going to do in order to achieve those goals?
Commit to something!