cropped shot of man stacking wooden blocks with arrows pointing upward and the top block having a target on it - goal settingIn psychology, goal setting is viewed as a vital tool for self-motivation that gives meaning to our actions. And encourages us to work toward achievement. For people in recovery, goal setting promotes change for the better. And it contributes to making smarter decisions about the wellness-focused habits that are essential for ongoing sobriety.

Types of Goals

Although goals can be set for many different reasons, psychologists group them into three general categories.

  • Process goals. These goals focus on building habits that support achievement. For example, if a healthy diet helps you manage your cravings. A process goal might be to start meal planning on the weekends so you’re not tempted to rely on fast food during the week.
  • Performance goals. These goals involve meeting specific metrics. For example, if you wanted to increase your physical fitness, your goal might be to exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. Or to get at least 10,000 steps per day.
  • Outcome goals. These goals are achieved when you combine the results of process and performance goals. They are long-term goals. For people in recovery, outcome goals might include finishing a college degree. Getting your own apartment. Or being hired for a new job.

The Benefits of Goal Setting

Goal setting increases your odds of success by encouraging you to look at the “big picture”. Instead of focusing on small day-to-day obstacles. Looking forward to the future provides a balanced perspective. And keeps you from getting trapped in the rumination that can lead to depression and anxiety.

Additionally, people who set goals for themselves report higher levels of:

  • Self-confidence
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-evaluation
  • Self-reliance
  • Personal autonomy
  • Resilience

What the Research Says About Effective Goal Setting

For decades, psychologists have studied human behavior in various environments to determine what factors increase motivation and improve productivity. Here are some of the most common frameworks used today to encourage effective goal setting:

  • Goal-setting theory of motivation. Edwin Locke’s goal-setting theory of motivation found that people who had ambitious and challenging goals reported better performance than those who had no goals or goals that were not considered challenging. This research focused on goal setting in the workplace.
  • ABC of goals. Frank L. Smoll developed the ABC of goals claiming that effective goals must be achievable, believable, and committed. His research was based on studying athletes.
  • SMART goals. George T. Doran studied goal setting and productivity and found that effective goals could be described by the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timely. Later, the SMARTER rule expanded on this idea by stressing that goals should be ethical (in line with a person’s values) and rewarding (provide a sense of accomplishment).
  • E-E-E model of goal setting. This model describes the way goals can act as a roadmap to change. The theory states that goals serve three purposes: to enlighten us with insight into our strengths and weaknesses, to encourage us to execute our plans effectively, and to enable us to bridge the gap between our real self and our ideal self.
  • Three key questions. In Make Success Measurable! A Mindbook for Setting Goals and Taking Actions, Doug Smith states that you must ask three questions to set effective goals. How important is the goal? And how confident are you about reaching and accomplishing the goal? How consistent is the goal with your core values and beliefs?

Goal Setting in Addiction Treatment

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) often incorporates goal setting and weekly progress trackers. To help clients work towards their specific treatment objectives. CBT is a cornerstone of addiction treatment. As well as the treatment of most co-occurring mental health disorders.

The self-help group SMART Recovery also uses goal-setting psychology to assist members. Participants are encouraged to think about their personal values. And then set goals for behaviors that reflect these values. The group offers a free SMART goals worksheet on their website.

The sponsor relationship in 12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous encourages accountability for goal setting. Sponsors share their personal experiences and provide insight as participants work towards their goal of progressing through the 12-Steps.

Alumni programs, such as the relapse prevention and continuing care services St. Joseph Institute for Addiction offers for graduates of its Pennsylvania residential substance abuse treatment program, serve a similar function. By tapping into a broader sober support network, participants learn how to set both short-term and long-term goals for their transition back to independent living.

Are you or someone you looking for in search of co-occurring disorder treatment in Pennsylvania? To learn more about SJI Pennsylvania addiction rehab, and our programs, please contact us at (888) 352-3297.