“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, best-known as the author of Walden (1817-1862)
We in recovery have to train ourselves to think long-term. We know, for example, that maintaining sobriety is never going to be a one-and-done action. We’ll need to be diligent, steadfast, committed and persistent. We’ll need to be resilient, courageous, hopeful and proactive. Intricately linked with all of these is the very important concept of success.
What does it mean to be successful? Is it the actual attainment of a physical goal, something we hold in our hands or can point to (like a new car, a coveted job, and lots of cash in the bank)? Or is it how we feel about ourselves that’s more indicative of the true measure of success?
Recovery experts laud the creation of goal lists and crafting of action plans to achieve the goals we deem worthwhile and important to our recovery. But we should keep in mind that what we’re really after isn’t an accumulation of things; rather, we are in pursuit of the strength, hope and fulfillment such goal achievement hopefully brings.
How do we improve our goal success rate in recovery? There are many lists of how to do this, and here it’s important to stress that we should keep our eye on the long-term and be less concerned with immediate results. Know that we’ll need to sometimes go after a certain goal more than once before we are successful, and that’s alright. It isn’t the immediacy of goal achievement that matters. What matters most is what we get out of the experience, how we are transformed by the knowledge we obtain, and what we do with that knowledge in the future that benefits our recovery.
Ask ourselves what is most important to us. Take stock of the actions we’ve taken and the goals we’ve strived for and achieved (or not) and list the ones that really made a difference in our overall outlook and attitude. Which ones are the most positive for our recovery? Which ones felt hollow and less than satisfying? By analyzing how we feel as a person in recovery with respect to our goal achievement, we’ll be better able to chart, track and achieve the success in goals that will prove most beneficial to us now and throughout recovery.
It’s also worth mentioning that we should be patient. Instant gratification is not our friend. If we’ve learned one important lesson in sobriety it is that recovery takes time. Be patient with ourselves, be hopeful, be action oriented and optimistic. These will all help strengthen our recovery and lead to a more fulfilling life in sobriety.