Setting Realistic Recovery Goals

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Goals are important, in life and in recovery. It’s important to have something to reach for, something to strive for—some way to tell if you are making progress, moving forward, and improving yourself.

Not all goals are created equal, though, and in fact it is possible to set misguided goals for yourself—goals that may actually do more harm than help.

There are different ways in which goals can fall short. Of course, you can set goals that are much too small—goals that don’t denote any real accomplishment—but you can also aim too big, causing yourself to feel disappointed and demoralized rather than encouraged and inspired.

As you think about setting goals for your recovery, consider the following tips.

Set goals that are realistic. Your goals should stretch you a bit, but they shouldn’t be outright impossible to achieve. Don’t set yourself up for failure, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can achieve lasting recovery overnight.

Set goals that are measurable. The best goals are the ones that allow you to see results and track your progress. Don’t make your goals too subjective or esoteric!

Have both short- and long-term goals. It’s good to have a mixture of goals that you can work toward. Have some big-picture goals that can keep you moving forward, but also some smaller goals to give you encouragement and strength along the way.

Be kind to yourself. Recovery is a process, and it always has ups and downs. You may not meet every single goal you set, at least not initially—so don’t beat yourself up about it. Adjust your goals and keeping moving forward in your recovery!

The ultimate goal, of course, is to sustain your recovery over the long run—and the best way to do that is to aim for specific milestones along the way.


  1. Government Finance Officers Association, S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Accessed February 15, 2016.
  2. Mind Tools, Personal Goal Setting. Accessed February 18, 2016.
  3. Rebos Retreat, Setting Realistic Recovery Goals During Outpatient Rehab.  October 2016, Accessed February 18, 2018.
  4. Oceanfront Recovery, Tips for Setting Realistic Recovery Goals. Accessed February 12, 2016.
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