Spiritual Goal Setting

The S.A.M. Guide to Goal Setting

Adding in a spiritual component to your recovery boosts the effectiveness of your sobriety journey, as well as your overall whole-person wellness. Setting goals will help move you along your spiritual path. This program offers some ideas on areas in which you can establish some spiritual goals.

Building a Spiritual Foundation

For most people in successful, long-term recovery, spirituality is an essential part of their journey. Building a spiritual foundation helps us achieve whole-person wellness. However, spiritual foundation-building is not a passive thing that "just happens." It's an active process that starts with a decision to build a spiritual foundation and is followed by spiritual goal-setting that leads to action.

Before you read about spiritual goal setting, think about some of your spiritual challenges and strengths, and write down.

Setting Spiritual Goals

Now that you have identified some problems and strengths, let's look at some topics for exploring spiritual goals. After you read each of these, consider writing goals in those areas that are important to you.

1. Acknowledging the presence of the spiritual in my life. This can take many forms, from admitting that you have a power greater than yourself to finding examples of spiritual healing in your life. Example: "I will actively look for and write about spiritual experiences on a daily basis for the next three months."

"I was at a very low point at about six months sober. Then right after I decided to open myself up to spiritual experiences, I found myself thinking of this old friend who always seemed to understand me, but I'd lost track of her. The next morning, I found her through social media, and we reconnected! I discovered she's in recovery too, and she's been a great support to me. Finding her again is totally a 'higher power' thing in my book!"
- Chris (woman in early recovery)

2. Setting aside time for spirituality. This can include making time for meditation, prayer, self-reflection, worship services, or spiritual retreats. It can also mean exploring spiritual writings or music and spending time in nature. Whatever you decide, you must set aside the time to make spiritual moments a priority.

Example: "I will meditate 30 minutes daily, and take nature walks twice a week for the next 30 days."

3. Finding hope and growth in times of despair, difficulty, and suffering. Sometimes our first thought, when things get hard, is to go into self-pity or blaming others. Finding hope or a growth lesson is a discipline that takes some practice but becomes easier over time.

When you are going through a time of suffering or reflecting on a painful time you've already had, take the time to consider how you will use this experience as a catalyst for further growth. To sharpen this skill, take inventory of other times when you overcame despair and identify the thoughts and actions that helped you triumph.

Example: "3x3: The next time I go through something really difficult, I will write three strengths I used in the past to triumph over adversity, three ways I can grow from this experience and three people I will share it with."

4. Accepting what is. Acceptance, as 12-step recovery literature tells us, is the key to our problems. This includes accepting ourselves, keeping the focus on what needs to be changed in ourselves instead of others, and accepting life on life's terms, not on the terms we made up in our stubborn heads.

Suggested goal: "For the next two weeks, each time I get angry about something that isn't the way I think it should be, I will switch to a mindset of acceptance, and will commit to talking about the experience with my sponsor or other trusted mentor/confidant. Then I will journal about what I learned."

"Acceptance is the answer to ALL of my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept my life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes."
- Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (p. 417)

5. Ensuring my actions reflect my values. On your spiritual journey, remember to always keep your values in mind and conduct yourself in line with your values. It might make things more difficult, time-consuming, or uncomfortable to stay aligned with your cherished beliefs, but violating these values can trigger shame and guilt, which are risk emotions for relapse.

Example: "I will write down my top 10-20 values and review one every day for two weeks. Each day, I will look for ways to stay true to that value, and will journal about my success and share with a trusted friend or sponsor."

6. Finding spiritual mentors. We all need someone to talk to and learn from on our journey. While it is important to develop a highly personal sense of spirituality, it is also good to ask for help from those who have spiritual wisdom. Wisdom is also found when we network with a group that can provide spiritual guidance and inspiration.

Example: "At the end of my first year of sobriety, I will have at least three spiritually-wise people to guide me. I will ask for help from these spiritual mentors at least once a week and write down what they tell me. At the end of the year, I will go back and review what I wrote."

Taking Action in Your Spiritual Growth

It's tempting to think of spirituality as this ethereal thing that you only engage in at church, or some "burning bush" revelation that happens to us. But most people in solid recovery know that spirituality "works when we work it." Notice that all of these spiritual goal areas above suggest actions to take.

Now that you've identified challenges and strengths, read about six areas for spiritual goal-setting, and have some examples of goals, think about writing your own goals. Pick one of these areas—or choose one of your own—and write a goal. Make it specific, attainable and something you can measure. 

Take the Spiritual Inventory of Belief Systems (SIBS) assessment if you want to find out where you are right now with your spirituality.

Learn more about goal setting in addiction recovery and read The S.A.M. Guide to Goal Setting.

© 2016 UCHealth | CeDAR

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