Not Into Resolutions? Set Actionable Goals Instead

Not Into Resolutions? Set Actionable Goals Instead

If you’re not reading this at the beginning of the new year, no worries. Many people aren’t into the typical resolutions, but setting actionable goals can be done anytime. In fact, if you’re trying to expand purpose in recovery, you might find that creating a new direction or establishing better habits might be achieved more readily by following deliberate goals that have meaning for you. 

How to Set the Right Goals

Positive Psychology notes that “setting goals helps trigger new behaviors, guide your focus, and help you sustain that momentum in life.” The organization cites key research that outline some particular benefits to creating goals including, but not limited to, the following (which we provide verbatim):

  • Edward Locke and Gary Latham (1990) are leaders in goal-setting theory. According to their research, goals not only affect behavior as well as job performance, but they also help mobilize energy which leads to a higher effort overall. Higher effort leads to an increase in persistent effort.
  • Goals help motivate us to develop strategies that will enable us to perform at the required goal level.
  • Accomplishing the goal can either lead to satisfaction and further motivation—or frustration and lower motivation if the goal is not accomplished.
  • Goal setting can be a very powerful technique, under the right conditions according to the research (Locke & Latham, 1991).
  • According to Fred C. Lunenburg (2011), the motivational impact of goals may, in fact, be affected by moderators such as self-efficacy and ability as well.

However, there are five key components to developing goals that lead to success

  1. Clarity. “Setting goals that are clear and specific eliminate the confusion that occurs when a goal is set in a more generic manner,” Positive Psychology states. 
  2. Challenge. You want to break free of your comfort zone and think bigger. “This helps you accomplish more. Each success you achieve helps you build a winning mindset.”
  3. Commitment. This is the key that starts your motivation engine, because “if you don’t commit to your goal with everything you have it is less likely you will achieve it.”
  4. Feedback. Whether in a recovery peer support group, with your therapist, or in an internal evaluation, “feedback helps you know what you are doing right and how you are doing. This allows you to adjust your expectations and your plan of action going forward.”
  5. Task complexity. It’s essential to design your goals to be measurable and achievable but still allow you to strive. 

Another helpful structure for goal setting is to use the SMART formula:  

  • Specific—Detail what you’re trying to accomplish and the particular steps you’ll take do so. 
  • Measurable—Give yourself a timeline and track your progress. For example, if you have a recovery goal to attend two 12-Step meetings weekly, whether online or in-person, for a full year, outline them in a calendar and check each one off as you progress.
  • Attainable—Can you complete the goal with your current skills and resources?
  • Relevant—Many people have greater success with goal motivation if they align with personal values, purpose, and objectives. 
  • Time-bound—This ties into the importance of measuring your progress. If your goals are open-ended, you might not feel as committed to their accomplishment. 

What Type of Actionable Goals Might You Try?

The therapy site BetterUp states that “goals improve your motivation by giving you a tangible outcome for your work. Every time you complete one, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment, motivating you to keep going.”

If the concept of setting goals is new to you, start small and work your way up to greater things. For example, if you’re in a 12-Step recovery program, you might want to use its chip or token incremental sobriety structure to mark your progress. Here are some examples of other small but easily achievable goals.

Health and Fitness

  • Drink eight glasses of water a day for a week.
  • Take a 15-minute walk every day.
  • Substitute one unhealthy snack with a healthier option each day.
  • Sleep an extra 30 minutes each night for a week.

Personal Development

  • Read a chapter of a book every night.
  • Practice a new skill (like drawing, coding, a musical instrument) for 15 minutes daily.
  • Write in a journal for 10 minutes each morning.
  • Meditate for 5 minutes daily.


  • Create a to-do list every morning and complete at least three tasks from it.
  • Declutter a small area of your home each day for a week.
  • Start waking up 15 minutes earlier each day to build a routine.


  • Call or text a friend/family member every day to check in.
  • Plan a weekly dinner with loved ones.
  • Practice active listening during conversations for a week.


  • Save a set amount of money each week/month.
  • Research and set up a budget for the month.
  • Cancel one subscription or service you no longer use.

Notice how these goals are small yet specific? This makes them easier to achieve, providing a sense of accomplishment once completed. You can adjust them to suit your preferences and gradually increase the difficulty as you progress. Then, as you gain confidence and build stronger habits, apply your savvy skills to greater life dreams.

Willingway: Acknowledging the Whole Person

Sobriety opens up a new pathway for living, and one of the many benefits of addiction rehabilitation at Willingway’s Georgia and Florida locations is exposure to better ways of navigating your well-being. Our treatment philosophy addresses how the disease of addiction affects all aspects—mind, body, and spirit—and equips you with solutions that create lifelong wellness