SMART Goals to Change Your Life in Recovery

SMART Goals or Smart Recovery

Table of Contents

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals have been around since 1981. The adherence to SMART goals helps define a set route to an objective. When SMART goals are applied to rehabilitation and recovery, they can be quite effective. SMART goals are comprised of 5 basic principles:

Make Your Recovery Goals Specific

The “S” in SMART stands for specific. Recovery is a multi-step process. Choosing one, specific thing, allows you to maximize your time. For example, choosing to exercise twice a day for 15 minutes each session. In comparison, a vague goal might be something like choosing to change your body.

Define Evidence of Progress

The “M” stands for measurable. It’s important to know how close you are to a goal. It helps with motivation and commitment. It has an added effect of making the goal more tangible. For example, a measurable goal would be to consistently eat 3 meals per day. An immeasurable goal would be to simply eat more.

Make Sure You Can Reasonably Achieve the Recovery Goal

The “A” stands for achievement. Setting reasonable expectations is the key to not feeling overwhelmed by your task, or setting an unachievable task that leads to perceived failure and negative thought. For example, an achievable goal for recovery would be to attend meetings. An unachievable goal would be to reintegrate into a family or work setting flawlessly within a week.

Make Your Goals Relevant to Recovery

The “R” stands for relevant. Creating a relevant goal ensures that the time taken to achieve the goal isn’t wasted. For example, a relevant goal to recovery would be to abstain from any activity that may trigger an addiction. An irrelevant goal would be, contextually, anything else.

Set Realistic Time Frames

The “T” stands for time frame. Setting a reasonable time frame helps with committing to the goal while also prohibiting procrastination. For example, a realistic time frame for recovery would be to find a job within 3 months. An unrealistic time frame would be finding a job within a day.

These principles should be combines when creating your goal. Therefore, a SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.

SMART Goals vs. SMART Recovery

SMART goals and SMART recovery, at the core, are both tools to overcome drug dependency and improve your life. However, they have differences. Despite the similar stylized spelling, they were created by two separate teams at different periods in time. But they can be used in conjunction. SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It is a step-based program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. SMART Recovery is an abstinence-oriented program. Whereas SMART Goals are strictly a method for effective goal planning.

Do They Overlap?

Do SMART Goals and SMART Recovery overlap? Not necessarily. As mentioned, SMART goals can be used to reinforce the effectiveness of essentially any recovery program. SMART recovery programs benefit from a structured goal setting.

SMART Recovery Guiding Principles


Mutual Help

Volunteer Managed


Participant Support

Evidence-Based Practices


SMART Goals Core Principles

SMART goals help you succeed by giving you an easy to use framework to reach your goals. SMART goals allow you to push further, provide a clear direction, and assists in organizing your path to the goal. These concepts can be applied to any problem and are used extensively outside of addiction treatment by business, teachers, therapists, and more.

How Do SMART Goals Work in Recovery?

SMART goals work a little different in recovery programs. SMART goals in recovery all have more-or-less the same initial goal; overcoming drug dependency. However, finding the right SMART goals to help with dependency can be challenging.

Setting SMART Goals can be Harder in Recovery than Other Areas of Life

SMART goals aren’t strictly for those in recovery. But setting strict and effective SMART goals is harder during rehabilitation. For starters, the stakes are simply higher. Setting an effective goal and or committing to a program can be the difference between thriving and relapsing. The difficulty with setting an effective SMART goal can cause frustration but these goals don’t need to be set by the person in recovery alone. If there’s difficulty creating a SMART goal then utilizing support, professional or personal, is a good idea.

Honesty During Recovery

Due to the nature of drug dependency, recovery requires intense introspection. Often, the cause of dependency is not within the control of the person with said dependency. However, being able to take individual responsibility and pursuing recovery from addiction is key to a strong recovery. Honesty has its benefits but being able to understand any hurt or ruined personal or professional relationships allows for a better understanding. In a sense, you can help change your life by addressing what is wrong with it.

Self-Care in Recovery

Recovery is by nature an extension of self-care. Learning to practice self-care can decrease the chances of negative thought and relapse. Self-care can be as simple as taking a walk outside or generally avoiding needlessly stressful situations. However, there is a difference between self-care and social neglect. For example, sleeping in now and again is self-care. Continuously oversleeping for personal and professional engagements is not.

It’s worth mentioning that positive thinking often leads to a positive life. Being able to maintain positive thinking is one of the most basic and important examples of self-care. To improve your life you must be able to take care of yourself. Positive thinking will change your life and increase your ability to cope with a number of challenges.

How Can SMART Goals Change Your Life in Recovery?

SMART goals, like most effective goals, are designed to improve your life.

A Positive Mindset During Recovery Improve Your Life

Negative thinking is harmful on a scientific level. It can lead to stress hormones being released which can result in depression, anxiety, and other mood-altering conditions. There are also negative physical effects in the long-term. Maintaining positive thinking during recovery increases the likelihood of a successful SMART recovery.

Finding the Good in Life

Optimism isn’t required, although it doesn’t hurt. Finding the good in life means actively searching for the upside. While there won’t always be a good side; there won’t always be a bad one either. This can be as simple as being thankful for family, friends, good art, or personal capabilities.

Becoming Happier

Becoming happier doesn’t happen overnight for most. However, diet and exercise can help. Actively practicing positive thinking, positive actions, and committing to recovery also play a big role in maintaining happiness.

Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

Discovering the desirable qualities of one’s self is often the combination of introspection and outward success. Committing to and completing SMART Goals builds the confidence and self-esteem essential for moving past dependency. Achieving a goal causes the releases of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine increases positive thinking, cognitive function, and mood.

Manage Stress Better

Adhering to SMART goals and recovery programs encourages an understanding of how to deal with stress. Stress and bad days are part of life. Setting a SMART goal for how to cope with a stressful situation allows for control over certain potential triggers. For example, counting down is a widely-known method for de-escalating personal tension.

Become More Resilient

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, this isn’t necessarily true. But those that have battled with substance abuse know that dependency can be the greatest challenge to overcome. Resiliency and a positive life are a combination of self-care, stress coping techniques, and SMART goals.

The Benefits of Positive Life Changes During Recovery

The changes that occur during recovery are visual, long-lasting, and drastic.

Live Longer

Overcoming dependencies lowers the risk of any number of severe medical conditions. Depending on the severity of dependency, you can go on to lead a full, positive life with little to no permanent signs of past drug abuse.

Feel Better

Overcoming dependencies means that your organs are free to operate their normal functions more efficiently. Cardiovascular systems improve over the course of months, energy levels increase, and bodily filtering systems like the liver can work at increased capacities.

Improve Relationships

Dependencies ruin personal and professional relationships. Being able to make amends, carry a coherent conversation, and remembering social engagements are important to improving or repairing relationships. Healthy relationships are one of the first things that drug dependency ruins. One of the biggest benefits that will change your life after dependency is healthy, nourishing relationships.

Look Healthier

Drug dependency interrupts blood circulation, complexion, and hair growth. Sobriety results in a fuller, more youthful appearance.

Save Money

Without the added expense of drugs or alcohol, you may find your wallet is a little heavier. The amount spent for a dependency varies but it’s all money back into your pocket once the dependency is addressed. A key sign of a positive life is having funds in a savings account for a rainy day.

Advice on How to Use Positive Thinking in Recovery

Positive thinking during recovery is more than just seeing the bright side. It’s also about positive self-referential statements. These can be as easy as repeating a mantra such as, “I will complete my program.” or “I am good at listening.” Staying positive is a conscious effort. Remember that every step you take is a step toward a dependency-free, positive life and a step away from substances.

Use resources learned through programs like SMART recovery to change your life for the better. Recovery is a complex journey. It’s impossible to change your life overnight but with positive thinking, SMART goals, SMART recovery, and just the right amount of self-care; you can change your life over time.


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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