At the end of each year, many people find themselves reflecting on the past and planning for the future. Resolutions for the year ahead can be a good way to ignite a sense of purpose. However, most resolutions are often broken and forgotten before the end of January. This may be because a lot of people don’t know how to set a goal that will create lasting change.


When we say we want to do something, it is crucial to start with a clear vision of what we are trying to accomplish. One way to do this is to make a SMART goal. Let’s look at an example. If your goal is to increase your participation in the recovery community, what do you need to consider? 

  • Specific – How will you participate? Through increased meetings, increased events, by taking on leadership roles, by being more engaged with your sponsor? Are there certain days of the week or times of the day when you are more available to work on this goal? 
  • Measurable – Don’t just say you want to attend “more” recovery meetings or events. How many recovery meetings are you going to attend? If you are going to call your sponsor “more,” what does that mean? How often will you call? On what days?
  • Attainable – Is this something you can realistically do? If you say you are going to attend 30 recovery meetings in 30 days, how are you going to make sure this happens?
  • Relevant – Why are you doing this? How does this help you? Don’t follow the herd with your goal setting. Pick something that will bring value to your life.
  • Timely – Set an end date for when the goal will be accomplished. 

Written all together, the SMART goal for increasing participation in the recovery community might look like, “I will attend 30 AA meetings by the end of January by attending my home group on Mondays and Wednesdays, group B on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and groups C and D on Saturdays and Sundays. I will hold myself accountable for this goal by reporting to my sponsor when I call them on Sunday evenings. Attending these meetings will expand my support system and keep me focused on staying sober.”

Additional Tips for New Year’s Resolutions

In addition to setting SMART goals, you can optimize your success in other ways: 

  • Start Small – your long-term goal might be big and life-changing, but if you get too ambitious, it can start to feel overwhelming and impossible to accomplish what you want. Instead, focus on moving in the right direction. Once you have some momentum, you can always add to your goal.
  • Write it Down – by committing the plan to paper, you may increase your accountability. Whether you write it with a dry-erase marker on your bathroom mirror, print it out and hang it on your fridge, or tape a note to your front door, putting your goal in writing and placing it somewhere you can see it every day can be helpful. 

Go Public – sharing your goals with other people may make it easier to follow through. Better still, if you can find other people who share your goal, you can help each other to be accountable. In the case of attending recovery meetings, you might work with a sober friend to attend meetings together.

Stack Your Habits – it can be helpful to connect the new habit you want to build with a habit you already have. This allows the existing behavior to become a trigger for the new one. 

There’s an App for That – several goal-setting apps can help you stay focused on what you want to accomplish. Some of these include:

  • MindShift – a free app that uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies to teach mindfulness, improve thinking, and help with anxiety management
  • Strides – a tool that helps with organization and routine building – only available for iPhone users
  • Streaks – set tasks you want to accomplish to build “streaks” of success – only available for iPhone users
  • Productive – tracks daily habits, allows users to set reminders and personal goals
  • Journaling apps – these apps can help you if your goal is to journal more or if you want to journal as a way to track your progress on something else
  • Celebrate small successes – Just because the goal will take a month or a year or however long to accomplish does not mean that you should not acknowledge all of the progress you are making along the way. Treat yourself to a coffee, a new book, some new music, or whatever motivates you to celebrate specific milestones on your journey.

At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, we love to see the progress our current and former clients are making in their lives. We are here to help with setting goals and celebrating successes, big or small.