How can we create momentum in recovery and achieve our goals?
Recovery starts out with just one goal in mind: to stay clean and sober for the rest of the day until you can crawl into bed…get up, and then do it again tomorrow.
At first, this is enough, and it sustains us and moves us forward a bit. Life starts getting better if we manage to maintain this abstinence. But one theme that you will find that recurs in recovery meetings is that we are either making progress or we are slipping back towards the disease–we are never standing still. In other words, we have to keep pushing ourselves to make progress in recovery, or we will surely slide back into our old ways.
Many people have found this to be true. And there are times when all of us lose momentum in our recovery and stagnate for a bit–we just sort of coast for a while, without making any real growth or progress. This happens to all of us. The key is to catch ourselves when we start to stagnate and then kick-start recovery back into high gear.
That bears repeating: all of us eventually stagnate in recovery, although some will quickly catch themselves and get right back onto a path of growth and development.
Therefore, the key for long term growth in recovery is:
1) Quickly catch yourself when you start to “coast”, and
2) Jump start your recovery when you recognize that you are stagnating.
How can you catch yourself when you’re stagnating? The key to this is simple awareness. If you look at the 12 step program, the tenth step is used as a daily maintenance step that can help to raise your awareness: “Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” Working this step into our lives improves our relationships and forces us to keep the focus on ourselves and our own behaviors.
Focus on self and your own behaviors = growth
In other words, focusing on yourself and your own behaviors is working with the stuff in your life that you actually have control over….stuff you can actually change. This is very empowering and growth-oriented, especially if you are examining your behaviors on a daily basis!
How can you “jump start” your recovery?
This is an awesome idea that I have seen working in my own life, and when it really starts clicking for you, you feel like you’re on top of the world!
Ever heard of the idea of a “debt snowball?” This is where a person who is in debt that has several different bills to pay will start paying them off in order of least to greatest. So let’s say they have 10 bills to pay, and one of them is 10 bucks, and another is for 20, and the biggest one is $2,000. In this case, the person would start by paying off the smallest ones first, and continue to keep paying off the smallest bill remaining as they go along. This creates momentum. The idea is to start making progress fast, which will in turn make you feel good about accomplishing goals, which will push you to strive even harder. In this way, your efforts “snowball” and create momentum as you go along.
You can apply this to recovery, and to your life in general. The key is to come up with some actionable items for you to try to accomplish each day. By actionable, I mean that it has to be something specific that you can actually do. So “get a job” is not exactly actionable, while “Fill out and turn in 5 applications this afternoon” is.
There are a million productivity systems out there, but I use a simple lined note card that I keep in my pocket. This becomes my to-do list, and also includes important reminders for me. When I get something done, I cross it off the list.
Now if you start doing this, you will notice that on some days, you are crossing things off left and right. You’re knocking them down bip-bip-bip, and it’s like you’re unstoppable. That’s when you know you’re in the zone. Getting into that zone requires that you plan out a good list of actionable items for each day.
Now, not every day can be a slam dunk when it comes to getting stuff done and feeling like you’ve accomplished so much. But if you make a habit of planning each day with some specific things, you’re going to be far more productive than if you just wing it. You’ll start to notice when you get into the zone and it will start happening more and more often.
Cynics will say that a productivity mindset does not apply to spiritual progress. Nonsense. Anyone who has carved out a spiritual life for themselves will tell you that their progress was based on action, not on sitting in a corner their whole lives and simply wishing themselves to “be more spiritual.” Instead, these people had to get out there and live and grow and become more spiritual.
Action items: what you can do
1) Consciously ask yourself each day: am I still moving forward in my recovery? Am I making progress? Or have I started to backslide?
2) Adopt a simple productivity system and test drive it for a week. A simple to-do list can work wonders if you put a bit of thought and planning into it each day.