Are your recovery goals in alignment with each other?
This is really what it is all about, and is the entire point of the holistic approach to recovery.
Because addiction is such a pervasive condition that infects every area of a person’s life, it makes sense to use a holistic approach to treat the disease.
Addiction affects you physically, so you want to treat it physically.
Addiction affects you spiritually, so you want to treat it spiritually.
Addiction affects you socially (and isolates you) so you want to treat it socially.
And so on. Because addiction ravages your entire world, it makes sense that any recovery solution is going to have to be comprehensive and holistic by design. It is going to have to address all of those trouble areas that your addiction destroyed.
But the real value of the holistic approach goes a step further than all of this.
The real value of the holistic approach is about something even more profound, something that can give you that amazing feeling, that everything is just working right in your life.
Work smarter, not harder
There are not many shortcuts in the personal growth arena. If you want to improve your life radically then you have to take massive action. There are no easy outs that allow you to just simply put in a small amount of effort and get a wonderful return on being relatively lazy.
No, if you want to radically improve your life for the better in recovery, you are going to have to put in a massive amount of effort. Period.
However, there is still the possibility that you can do this in one of two ways:
1) You can create lots of different personal development goals that are just haphazard and do not necessarily compliment each other.
2) You can create lots of different personal development goals that are in perfect alignment, and compliment and enhance each other.
If you create conflicting goals, you might still make decent progress in your life, but you will not be as effective as you could be.
Something will always be holding you back, no matter how hard you work at it, because your goals will be fighting against each other.
Unfortunately, it is possible to have two goals in your recovery that, while both being “positive” in your mind, are actually conflicting with each other.
For a very simple example, take the idea of the cigarette smoker who justifies their smoking in recovery by saying that it relaxes them and actually helps to prevent them from relapsing on drugs and alcohol.
Such a person has two goals: one is to be happy and healthy in their recovery, and their other goal is to use cigarettes as a way to medicate their stress in recovery.
Because of their justification about why smoking is helping them, they see both goals as being positive. Yet, the two goals are actually fighting against each other, creating a constant source of tension and anxiety for the individual.
Or take the example of someone who wants to life lavishly and appear to be rich with success in their life, but they also want to be financially secure and have plenty of money stashed away. Such a person will never feel comfortable with their finances, because their two goals are always in conflict: they want to have their cake and eat it too, which is just not possible. They want to live rich but also have lots of wealth banked. The goals are in direct opposition.
Or take the example of someone in recovery who has the goal of being financially independent and starting their own business, but they also have the goal of doing as little work as possible while mindlessly entertaining themselves for hours on end. Their two goals are in direct conflict, and they are not going to be truly happy with their life until they can change their perspective in one area or the other.
The alternative to having conflicting goals it to have a set of goals in your life that all compliment each other, creating zero friction.
The idea behind synergy is that the sum of all the parts is greater than what you would expect the whole to be. So instead of 1+1+1 = 3, you get 1+1+1 = more than 3.
This happens when goals are in alignment with each other, because then they will tend to help each other rather than to fight against each other.
Let’s say, for example, that you have the goal of running a marathon, and that you also have the goal of starting your own successful business. Are these goals in alignment?
At a glance, you might believe that they have nothing to do with each other.
But ask any successful business owner who runs marathons if doing one helps with the other, and you might be surprised. The part that is difficult to put into words is the idea of discipline, and how building that “discipline muscle” translates so well across different tasks. It takes a lot of discipline to train up for a marathon, just like it takes a lot of discipline to create a successful business. The goals are in alignment even though most people believe them to be completely unrelated.
Take someone who has the goal of helping the environment. Maybe they also have several consumption goals that do not really fit well with this. In order to experience synergy between their goals, they would all have to be in alignment. So they could drop their consumption goals and instead acquire goals that compliment their eco-friendly mindset, such as goals of minimalism, simplicity, and even exercise. They could sell their car and use a bike or start jogging places instead of relying on gasoline. They could embrace minimalism and live a much simpler life, one that does not rely on as much consumption.
In order to experience true synergy, the person has to drop the goals that are not fitting in with their overall strategy. Once they get all areas of their life working together, they will experience that “aha moment” where everything just seems to work. Their goals are no longer in conflict with each other, so all tension and anxiety drops away.
Which goals worked well for me in recovery
Now I am not suggesting that anyone out there in recovery needs to adopt my exact set of goals, but I want to list them out here just to help illustrate the concept of alignment.
For what it is worth, I did not start out in my first month of recovery with these ideas. I did not get sober and then a week later say to myself “hey, I really should have a bunch of personal development goals, and I should really make sure they are all in alignment, so that I can maximize my effectiveness!”
Obviously, that is not how my life works and I do not expect these ideas to work instant miracles for anyone.
However, I still think that this concept deserves some conscious consideration, especially as a person moves from early recovery into long term sobriety.
Thus, this is an “advanced” recovery concept, one that should really apply well to people who have already got the basics of sobriety down pretty well, and are looking to further enhance their growth and their recovery.
Here are the major goals and milestones in my recovery listed below. We will take a closer look at how they all worked together as well:
1) Go back and finish a college degree.
2) Become a runner.
3) Quit smoking cigarettes.
4) Become financially independent.
5) Start a successful business.
6) Reach out and help people in recovery.
My first goal in recovery was to go back and finish up my college degree.
I did not really decide on this goal for myself, others suggested it for me, over and over again, and I could not ignore the logic they were using. I was clean and sober, I had the time and mental energy, and I did not like the idea of working hard for very little money for the rest of my life. So I took their suggestions and returned to school.
While I was in school I started seeing a shift in my thinking. I was not eager to get a degree just as a ticket for a nice day job. Instead, I wanted to actually learn something, and I wanted to build something. So I switched from computer programming into marketing, and started thinking in terms of entrepreneurship instead of as an employee. This little twist would take a few years to percolate in my brain before it would have a major impact on my life, but the seed had been firmly planted.
Become a runner
One of my biggest goals in early recovery was to quit smoking. Based on my research, I knew that exercise was going to be a huge key to this. I did not necessarily care much for health and fitness in terms of exercise but I thought that I probably needed to do it if I was going to be able to quit smoking. The endorphin rush from vigorous exercise was what I was really after, in order to replace the “high” that one feels from smoking.
So while I was still smoking, I also started running, and slowly become an avid runner.
I struggled with this for a long time but eventually I managed to quit successfully. As pointed out, forming the habit of exercise was critical to this success. My main strategy in quitting smoking was to exercise as a replacement. It worked.
Become financially independent, start a successful business, and reach out and help people in recovery
I list these three goals together, because the solution was so closely knit. I started a website to help people learn about my recovery methods from addiction, and I later grew this into a successful business. I created lots of helpful information that was eventually read by thousands of people every single day.
These goals were in alignment with my other goals, much more than people realize. I had to have discipline in order to create this business. The success of the business was based on hundreds of hours of work, not on luck, and so the discipline that I learned from becoming a runner was extremely useful in helping me to build the business. Even the goal of quitting smoking tied in heavily with this trio of goals, helping me to save money, but also giving me another point in being able reach out and help people, and also in mastering the discipline necessary to achieve other difficult tasks (like creating a successful business).
So it all tied together, and I probably could not have predicted this, but it is fairly easy to see the synergy among the goals in looking back.
However, this is also an opportunity for each person in recovery. You can consciously shape your goals to be in better alignment with each other.
Suggestions for goals and areas to explore
The following are just suggestions, they are not necessarily going to be the right goals for everyone. And you may just pick and choose the ones that apply to your life.
The key, of course, is to take a giant step back, look at how all of your goals are working together with each other, and figure out if they are in conflict at all. If so, then you may need to readjust some of your actions.
These are just some suggested ideas, based mostly on my own experience in recovery:
1) Health and fitness – My strongest suggested goal. I believe this should be a pillar of each person’s recovery.
2) Frugality – wasting money and time is the source of much stress. Frugality is about maximizing value, not about being cheap.
3) Minimalism – chances are you can be happier with less. Clear out your physical spaces and enjoy less mental overhead as well. Freedom!
4) Entrepreneurship – escape the work-spend cycle that employees follow and build something positive in your life.
5) Eliminate bad habits – like smoking, gambling, sex addiction, etc. All huge negatives that drag down your entire life.
6) Learning, education – Should really be an ongoing process but you might even consciously seek to learn specific new skills, etc.
From what I have experienced, all of those suggested goals seem to be in very close alignment with each other. None of them stand out against the others and create conflicts that hold you back in some way.
Again, you do not necessarily have to pursue all of those goals in order to have a successful recovery. The idea is that you want to:
1) Be making conscious growth in your life.
2) Make sure your goals are in alignment, so that you are not fighting against yourself.
Ask yourself: “Are my goals in alignment with each other, or am I fighting against myself in some way?”
It can take a lot of courage to examine your life and admit that one part of it is not fitting in well with the others.
It can also take a lot of courage to admit that you are not pushing yourself to make conscious growth at all.
For example, I used to play video games quite frequently in my early recovery. This was what I did for fun and entertainment before I discovered drugs and alcohol.
But my long term goals in recovery did not mesh well with playing hours upon hours of mindless games. In a way it was fun to do, and it was certainly better than some of the alternatives (such as active addiction), but the bottom line was that it did not mesh well with my other goals. It did not fit well. It was not a perfect match for my other goals of fitness, entrepreneurship, helping others, and so on.
Eventually I dropped the goal of entertaining myself with video games. This took time and conscious reflection to arrive at this decision. I did not just wake up one day and realize that I wanted to change. The realization happened gradually as I became more honest with myself about my life.
I slowly realized that my life needed a bit of tweaking in order to get all of my goals into alignment. So I quit playing video games while I was becoming a runner and starting a new business. The old goal did not fit in with the new goals, so I dropped it. This made way for new things to come into my life so that I could create more of what I really wanted.
In many cases you will have to let go of some immediate gratification (like playing video games) in order to create something valuable that is really an investment into your future happiness (such as fitness or exercise).
Such a trade off may seem difficult at first, but once you have all of your goals in alignment with each other, your life will become much more effective, and happiness and freedom will come easy. The different parts of your life will blend together in perfect harmony, and you will no longer have tension, anxiety, and conflict.
This is how holistic recovery is meant to be. All parts working together to create an amazing new life.