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How to set realistic goals

Big ambitions like “stopping drinking” are important, but they can be overwhelming. Breaking big things down into smaller goals will help you to get there one step at a time. SMART goals are a simple way to set realistic and achievable goals. With each step forward, you’ll get a sense of achievement that will motivate you to do even more.

What are your goals?

Your goals might be to do with your health, getting out and about, or something to do with your drinking or drug use.

But it’s also important to have goals that include fun activities. Achieving fun and pleasurable goals releases happy hormones in your brain, helping you make positive connections and motivating you to do more.

Fun goals might include:

  • going for a day out with friends or family
  • joining a local activity group
  • cooking your favourite meal once a week

Little things like this can add up to big, positive changes in your life. But for this to happen, your goals need to be clear and realistic. That’s where SMART goals come in.

Setting SMART goals

You can create SMART goals by asking yourself five questions. Start with a general goal or ambition, and then work through the SMART list:

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to do?
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve done it?
  • Achievable: Can you realistically do it?
  • Relevant: Does the goal relate to a something important in your life?
  • Time-limited: When do you want to achieve it?

For example, a general goal might be:

“I am going to exercise more.”

But a SMART goal might look like this:

“I am going to go swimming for half an hour at lunchtime next Friday.”

This goal is:

  • specific: it’s about swimming, not exercise in general
  • easy to measure: you’ll know for sure when you’ve done it
  • achievable: half an hour of swimming a week is a realistic amount
  • relevant: it works towards your general goal of exercising more
  • time-limited: you will have until next Friday to complete it

So when you’re setting your own goals, ask the SMART questions and you’ll be more likely to reach them.

And when you’ve got a good idea for a realistic goal, use our simple goal-setting tool to give yourself a helpful, motivating reminder.

Get support

If you’re not sure about your goals, or you’re struggling to achieve them, you can talk to us online.

Our online chat team can offer you free, confidential advice with drugs or alcohol.

We’ll work with you on your own goals, whether that’s reducing your drug or alcohol use, stopping completely or just staying safe and healthy.

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