A key component of successful addiction recovery is having a clear recovery vision which includes setting S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-Bound) goals. By dedicating your time and truly focusing on recovery, it is possible to correct negative behaviours and patterns learned in the past.

Setting Smart Goals addiction recovery


  • Learning how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals is an important part of any successful addiction recovery plan.
  • Learning how to set S.M.A.R.T. goals is an important part of any successful #addiction #recovery plan.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are an effective and useful tool for addiction recovery as they demand accountability and turn goals into achievable results. S.M.A.R.T. goals can be applied to other areas of your life as well such as relationships, work, and education to create an all-encompassing approach to recovery.

In order to get a better understanding of what this means, we have broken these S.M.A.R.T. goals down, using a smart goals example of living a healthier lifestyle.

Specific Goals

The first step to creating a S.M.A.R.T. goal is establishing a specific goal that will help you stay focused and keep you on track. If a goal is too general, it can become easy to ignore. Without setting a specific goal, you could easily procrastinate, make up excuses to avoid any required hard work, or even ignore the goal all together.

After identifying your goal, you can make it specific by asking yourself why you want to accomplish the goal, and how it can contribute to your recovery. You may even want to ask yourself what the benefits would be in achieving your goal. To specify your goal even more, you can also ask yourself who, if anyone, could potentially be involved in helping you reach it. Having counsellors, family members, or friends be part of the plan will make you accountable to them as well, and re-ensure you stick to your objective.

An example of an ambiguous goal would be stating that you want to get in better shape to live a healthier lifestyle. To convert your ambiguous goal of getting in shape into a specific S.M.A.R.T. goal, you can instead decide to purchase a gym membership and hire a personal trainer.

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Measurable Goals

Next, you must ensure that your S.M.A.R.T. goal is measurable. Without making your goal measurable, you will have no indication of progress which can hinder you from achieving your goal.

Once you have set your specific goal, you will need to figure out a way to tell if you are on track to achieving it. The easiest way to make your goal measurable is to apply a number to it.

For example, if your goal is to live a healthier lifestyle and your specific goal is to purchase a gym membership and then hire a trainer, you can then establish how many times a week you will go to the gym, and how many times a week you will see your trainer. It will help you with achieving your specific goal when you apply tangible and quantifiable values to your S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Attainable Goals

When setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal, you want to make sure that it is attainable so that you do not overwhelm yourself. It can be easy to stay positive and follow the plan you have laid out for yourself for a few days, or even a few weeks; however, if you set a goal for yourself that would face several roadblocks, you may become discouraged after a few months if there is no measurable progress.  You want to aim high and put the effort into reaching your goal, but your goal should not be so extreme that even with a plan you cannot complete your goal in the long run.

By using smart goal setting and establishing an attainable goal, you will be able to visualise the steps required in order to accomplish it. You will find yourself looking at your goal with a critical eye and removing any foreseeable obstacles. You will also find yourself using various resources and support systems to help you reach your goal once you recognise that it is achievable.

For example, purchasing a gym membership is an attainable S.M.A.R.T. goal. You can easily purchase a gym membership to meet your healthy lifestyle goal and implement specific and measurable goals to incorporate a gym schedule into your weekly routines. Keep in mind, if you currently never attend the gym, do not start off with a goal of attending the gym five days per week. Instead, choose two or three days per week and set a time limit of two months. If in this time you have managed to achieve this goal, you can set a higher goal of four-five days per week (if you wish) and go from there.

Realistic Goals

When on your road to recovery, it is important not to set yourself up for failure. To maintain momentum of positive growth, you will need to set realistic S.M.A.R.T. goals. Just like setting attainable goals, you want to ensure that your goal is not so extreme that it cannot be completed.

A realistic goal can be mapped out with concrete landmarks on the way to accomplishment. A realistic goal is a goal that you can visualise and take proper steps towards. A smart goal setting exercise is to ask yourself, with some hard work and honest effort, is the goal a realistic one that can be attained?

Expanding on the goal of a healthy lifestyle, it is a realistic S.M.A.R.T. goal as long as you can make a plan to carry it out. It is easy to purchase a gym membership, hire a personal trainer, and go to the gym a specific number of times a week. It is not, however, realistic to set a goal to lose 25 kilograms in one month, or to run a marathon a few weeks after purchasing your gym membership without injury. A realistic goal requires careful planning and visualisation of success.

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Time-Bound Goals

Time-bound goals are essential to successful recovery from addiction. By designating deadlines or due dates to complete your S.M.A.R.T. goal or establishing steps to reach your goal, you will be able to stay positive and hold yourself accountable and stay focused on the task at hand. Life can get busy, and other responsibilities can surface, but it is important to keep deadlines and due dates for these goals – making them, and thus your recovery, a priority.

When creating your goal, ask yourself whether it is time-bound and realistic. Ask yourself whether you can accomplish your goal within the specified time, and do your best to stick to the plan you have laid out.

Using the example of a healthy lifestyle goal, you can see how easy it is to create a goal that is time-bound by indicating how many months of training you plan on completing. Your timeline can be a couple of months or a year; the length is not an integral part of your S.M.A.R.T. goal so long as it is specific, attainable, realistic, and you have a way of measuring your progress.

Putting S.M.A.R.T. Goals to Use in Addiction Recovery

At The Cabin Hong Kong, we do our best to ensure our outpatient addiction treatment clients come away from our programme with an in-depth knowledge of how to plan and achieve important goals which play an integral part in their recovery vision and of course addiction recovery overall.

For those who would like to learn more about setting these types of goals, we offer group sessions every Wednesday night.  Please view our schedule and contact us for more information.