When you set a big goal, like getting sober, it helps to have milestones. A milestone is smaller goal that gets you a step closer to your big goal. They are the actions that are needed to achieve the final result. Milestones are realistic, attainable, measurable and can be reached relatively quickly.
Breaking a big goal down into milestones has been shown to increase the odds of success. Milestones are beneficial because they:
- Make a big goal seem less overwhelming or difficult.
- Help track progress.
- Keep you on track and focused on the goal.
- Let you know if goal setting adjustments need to be made.
- Motivate you to keep working towards the big goal.
But that’s not all. You can make milestones even more impactful by pairing them with a reward system. Each time you reach a milestone you reward yourself for the progress that’s been made. The reward reinforces your resolve to reach a goal and acknowledges what you’ve achieved. The last part is crucial for someone who’s in treatment at an addiction recovery center. The wins from hitting milestones help to build confidence and self-esteem that was diminished by addiction.
At our Dallas addiction center we teach clients how to use rewards to improve their results. Below are key pieces of advice for anyone who wants to create a reward system to celebrate their successes while overcoming a substance use disorder.
Step 1. Understand That Addiction Affect’s the Brain’s Reward System
Setting goals and using a reward system is different for someone with a substance use disorder. Addiction alters the brain in a number of ways. One of the worst effects is its damage to the brain’s reward system. Drugs and alcohol effect dopamine production and neural connections making it more difficult to get enjoyment out of other things.
With time the brain recovers, but there are things you can do to aid the process. Setting goals and working towards them is one of those strategies. The positive feelings associated with achievement help to reset the reward system. And when there’s a reward tacked onto reaching goals that reinforces the reset so that the reward system produces a dopamine boost from healthy, productive activities.
Step 2. Identify Your Big Goal
The trick to setting milestones is to work backward from a big goal. That means you have to establish your big goal first. For most people who are enrolled at addiction treatment centers the big goal is maintaining sobriety.
That’s a great starting point, but it helps to make the goal more specific and measurable. For example, the big goal could be staying sober for a year. This gives you a definitive timeline and a more specific goal.
Step 3. Identify the Key Steps to Reaching the Big Goal
Once the big goal is set you can start breaking it down into milestones. During the process you should:
- Go in chronological order starting with what needs to be done first.
- Start small with milestones that can be completed quickly and get a few wins under your belt.
- Be very specific for each milestone – what, when, who, how.
- Note if resources are needed for a milestone.
- Make each milestone measurable so it’s clear when the milestone is met.
- Give each milestone an endpoint for when they will be completed.
If a long list of milestones is overwhelming you can break it down to more manageable chunks. For example, if the goal is to reach the 1-year sober mark, then focus on the first three months only. A few months down the road once you’ve checked off a number of milestones you can move on to the next three months.
Step 4. Match the Level of Reward With the Achievement
Rewards should always be in-line with the milestone. A small milestone warrants a small reward, like a smoothie from a local shop. A reward for a bigger milestone could be getting a blender to make smoothies at home.
When rewards are reflective and relevant to the milestone it provides the right kind of motivation and expectations moving forward. The reward doesn’t have to be big, but it should be special. Choose rewards that you wouldn’t normally get yourself or are a little more indulgent than what you would normally get.
Step 5. Start Hitting Milestones
Now that you’ve got your milestones and rewards figured out the only thing left to do is get to work. Start working on your first milestone. Enlisting the help of a family member or friend as an accountability partner can be beneficial all around. They’ll keep you on track, encourage you and help you celebrate the wins. If you have a Recovery Coach at your addiction treatment center they are another great accountability partner that can help you hit milestones.
Step 6. Reward Yourself and Reevaluate Milestones
Now comes the fun part – the reward! When you reach a milestone give yourself the reward, and use the opportunity to reevaluate your milestones.
It’s important to remember that along the way your milestones could change. As you reflect back on what you’ve gotten right, things that didn’t go as planned and the progress you’ve made you may need to make adjustments or alter your strategy. Changing things up is perfectly fine so long as you’re working towards your big goal.
If you get stuck don’t give up! Instead reevaluate what you’re doing and revisit your milestones to keep moving forward.
At the Lighthouse Recovery Dallas addiction centers you’ll find the support you need to reach big goals. From putting together a holistic addiction treatment plan to weekly meetings with other residents at a Sober Living Home, we’ll help you take control of your substance use disorder so that you can achieve great things in life.