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The Importance of Recovery Goals

recovery goals

Whether one is recovering from an alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, or mental health disorder, the idea of setting recovery goals can be extremely helpful. A set of clear goals can often serve as a sort of compass, directing people toward a life of purpose, resilience, and deep fulfillment. After all, recovery is not just about avoiding harmful substances and behaviors. It is a lifelong, holistic process of rebuilding from within. Having recovery goals provides a blueprint for this rebuild, offering direction in what might otherwise feel like an overwhelming and uncertain journey.

What Are Recovery Goals, Anyway?

Recovery goals are goals that focus on improvements one wants to achieve in their own healing. They help former addicts stay motivated and focused on their recovery journey. Yes, recovery is an ongoing process, and perfection is never achieved, but that doesn’t mean one cannot strive to reach certain milestones in their recovery journey.

Types of Recovery Goals

It’s important to remember that recovery goals are not always about what is achieved. You can set goals that help you shift your thinking and allow for healthy habits to create positive outcomes in your life.

There are three main types of goals in addiction and mental health recovery: 

  • Process Goals. These behavior-oriented recovery goals focus on establishing habits that support your physical and mental health. The outcome of the behavior is less important than the behavior itself. 
  • Performance Goals. Performance goals are dependent on the meeting of certain metrics. For instance, the goal to stay sober for six months is a performance goal. Process goals tend to lead to performance goals.
  • Outcome Goals. As they pertain to recovery, outcome goals are usually long-term objectives that can best be achieved by maintaining process and performance goals.

The Benefits of Recovery Goals

Of course, setting goals is an important aspect of anyone’s life. Goals help us fashion our behaviors and decisions to meet those goals. Recovery goals help you create a new mindset when it comes to how you approach a new life of sobriety. Just a few of the benefits of setting goals in addiction and mental health recovery can be found below.

Improves Self-Esteem

Recovery goals can be valuable for those who struggle with low self-esteem, which tends to be especially prevalent among those in early recovery. After all, admitting you have a problem with substance use can leave one feeling a strong sense of shame. Setting goals are a way to rebuild a person’s self-esteem, allowing for a sense of achievement, self-reliance, and success.

Promotes Positive Thinking

Recovery goals encourage positive thinking, in that they allow you to focus on what you want out of life instead of focusing on avoidance. For instance, telling yourself, “I’m going to stop drinking,” is less powerful a statement than “I’m going to stay on the path of recovery today” because the focus is negative. Recovery goals are all about staying positive, allowing one to think about what their recovery is enabling them to do.

Provides a Sense of Purpose

Recovery goals provide a powerful sense of purpose. Setting goals provide a person with the means to feel motivated and optimistic. And achieving these goals—no matter how small—can have a big impact on how people might find their purpose.

Keeps You Focused on a Brighter Future

Recovery goals help a person focus on their future. Sometimes, when recovering from a substance use disorder or mental health disorder, you can feel stuck in the past—always going over how this led to that and what went wrong. One of the most important aspects of recovery is learning to accept what happened in the past and realizing it doesn’t define you today.

Recovery Goals Are a Reminder of How Recovery Works

Recovery goals act as the perfect reminder that recovery is an ongoing process, with no finish line. It is common for people in early recovery to focus too much on the big-picture goal of living the rest of their lives clean and sober. While this is a worthy goal, it’s the challenge of smaller, short-term goals that effectively teach the values of humility, compassion, and hard work in recovery.

The S.M.A.R.T. Approach

One of the most effective approaches in thinking about addiction and mental health recovery goals is the S.M.A.R.T. acronym. S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

People in recovery can benefit from incorporating S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting into their addiction recovery plan. This structured approach boosts the likelihood of success.


To ensure a more effective recovery journey, set clear and specific goals that clearly address what you want to achieve. Staying specific allows you to have a clearer understanding of what you’re working toward, and how these actions align with your new life.


Goals should be as quantifiable as possible, allowing individuals to track their progress as time goes on. By having measurable milestones—such as attending a certain number of weekly support meetings –you can more easily assess your milestones and setbacks in recovery.


Achievable goals are those that are realistic. It is extremely important that you take an honest look at the feasibility of your goals, based on your own capabilities, resources, and constraints. Giving yourself unattainable goals can only lead to heartache, and maybe even relapse. 


Your goals should be connected to your desire for long-term sobriety and mental health. This ensures that each goal is value-driven, encouraging a sense of purpose and motivation.


Your recovery goals should act within a defined timeframe, with clear deadlines toward which you can work. Whether short-term or long-term, timely recovery goals help structure progress and encourage consistent development.

When you actively participate in defining your recovery goals, you reclaim ownership of your life and identity. Such a sense of agency is crucial in addiction and mental health recovery, where feelings of powerlessness and disenfranchisement so often prevail. By setting clear, achievable, timely goals, you declare to the world—and, more importantly, yourself—that you are capable of change and are actively working towards a brighter, healthier future.

Start Your Recovery at Northpoint Recovery Today

Modern addiction and mental health treatment is customized to fit your specific needs—this personalized approach helps you create the most direct path to long-term sobriety. At Northpoint Recovery, we’re committed to providing you with both the short- and long-term benefits of proper addiction and mental health treatment. Get started today by calling us at 208.225.8667. You can also reach us online by completing our brief message form.