Clarity in Goal Setting


I have said this before, but I’m going to say it again:  at least from a goal-setting standpoint, sobriety is actually easier than a lot of other life-enhancing goals.  There is almost a wistfulness to looking back to the first few months sober (alright, not the first month, that was just plain awful):  I had one goal for my day:  stay sober.  I had a simple 4-point “to do” list that I believed would allow me to achieve this goal, and each night I went to bed satisfied that I achieved my goal.  And as it got easier, and things started getting done on top of staying sober, it felt like a heavenly chorus was playing, I felt so accomplished.

Other goals are not so simple.  We’ll take the obvious one:  diet and exercise.  Each day I wake up determined to make progress in the goal, but the bottom line is that the goal seems to be a fluid one.  Some days I think I just want to get to a certain weight, other days I want to stay within a caloric range, still others I want to eat healthfully.  With exercise, do I want to increase the overall number of steps each day, do I want to increase the amount of miles logged on the treadmill, or do I want to complete the regimen best for my overall health?  And God help us all if it is that last one, because the how’s and why’s to accomplish that makes my head spin.

Then there’s this little blog I’ve got going on.  Sometimes, when the monkey mind is working in overdrive, I will whine (to myself or to anyone who will listen) that I feel like I’ve said all there is to say.  Worse still, I will compare myself to other blogs and find mine wanting.  To which complaints my husband calmly replies, “What specifically are you looking to achieve?”  So is my goal to reach a certain pinnacle in terms of metrics?  Is it to win some kind of accolade?  Is it to provide a service to others?  If so, exactly who are the others:  the newly sober, my blogging friends who “grew up” with me, lurkers who are considering getting sober, or my family and friends who are actually my longest and most loyal readers?

So I read back and I think, “Welcome to the human race!”  And of course I realize this is mundane “life gets life-y” stuff that is, in fact, a blessing of sobriety.  In active addiction most of these things would take a back seat, if not a dark corner of the trunk, as I pursued my real goal:  altering myself chemically so I did not have to deal with anything at all.  But now that that party is over, I would like to come to a peaceful conclusion with some of these issues, and I am realizing that the solution lies in creating clarity in terms of my end game.

A recent example:  the first marking period just closed, and the biggest academic issue in our household was forgetfulness, the consequences of which were “0” scores that caused the overall grades to plummet from an “A” to an “F” within 24 hours several different times (there is a definite downside to having instant access to your children’s grades).  This would drive me wild, and no resulting conversation (yelling) seemed to correct the problem.  For the most part, the situations worked themselves out, but the internal angst I experienced as a parent was wildly disproportionate to the urgency I attempted to convey.

My husband and I are at cross-purposes on the solution.  He believes the answer is to micromanage:  she has proven she does not have the proper skills to manage her time, and therefore she needs someone to do it for her.  I say poppycock! She is in high school, I have given copious tutorials on how best to get homework done, she is at a point in her life where if she needs me standing over her as she does homework, then I have failed as a parent (you should be reading that last bit in a Beverly Goldberg tone of voice.  If you have not yet watched the sitcom The Goldberg’s, stop reading this, head to your television, and hit the On Demand button.  It will be worth it).

So today is Day One of the new marking period, and I had one more “discussion” on this subject with my daughter.  I explained the problem as I saw it (for what feels like the millionth time), but this time I defined the goals in a more specific way:  grades are to be no lower than a certain number, there are to be no more “missing” or “late icons” found on the website that gives grades.  The first time any of these objectives are missed, life outside of academic and athletic will come to a grinding halt (and, believe me, this threat is a big one for a high school freshman).

I’m not sure how effective this goal-setting clarification will play out for my daughter, but I’m telling you, it has played out wonderfully for me so far.  I feel lighter when it comes to this issue, because I have defined the goal, I have set the expectations, and I can manage the consequences.  I am genuinely hopeful that the first time one of these things appear (because I am, if nothing else, a realist with regard to my daughter’s academics), I will calmly employ the consequence without going ballistic.

I guess I just need to get some clarity in the other areas of my life where I’m feeling unsettled, and peace will once again reign all over my personal kingdom.

Today’s Miracle:

In my FedEx-imposed house arrest that lasted more than 6 hours (but only half of their preposterous 12-hour window), I managed to make a challenging to-do list, and get every bit of it done.  Thank you, FedEx (but not really).



Posted on November 6, 2014, in Recovery, Self-Care and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. It’s all perspective. I found diet and exercise to be significantly simpler than getting sober!

    It took me way longer to figure out putting down the wine glass than it did to get in shape.


    • That is a good point, and in no way did I mean to imply that getting sober is an easy process. It took me YEARS, and countless “day ones,” before it grabbed hold. For me, it was the “how-to” of getting sober that was simpler, as in, don’t drink. With the dreaded diet and exercise, there are more decisions to be made.

      But that perspective is definitely a personal one, I’m sure for someone else the answer is as simple as “don’t eat so much and move around more.” Sigh… I will get there someday.

      I appreciate the comment 🙂


      • What I really meant is the addictive ness of booze and the compulsion to drink were much more baffling to me than I ever considered.

        Diet and exercise were easier because I could become obsessive and controlling. Not necessarily good!


  2. I love this post. I am a list maker, but for me they are short term goals. I have trouble settling in to writing real goals and the action it requires. Thanks for the insight.


  3. You’ve got a lot of layers to this post, Josie. I love how you’ve woven sobriety, diet and exercise and your children into the entire mix in the context of goals.

    And oh, the unfinished homework with the insta-grade access. That used to stress me out with my daughter beyond belief. So much so that I worry my girl is permanently scarred when she sees me sidle up the computer! Happy ending…despite all of the early angst, we set some guidelines similar to yours and she is now a very successful and dedicated college junior.
    I took a different approach with my son. He’s more of a self-doer and doesn’t need reminders. That said, he’s not perfect (who is?) and we only review grades once/week. Just freeing myself from that daily habit has been liberating.
    And, I’m chuckling at your list making skills. Clearly, I need a FedEx imposed time-out. The shiny objects are everywhere this week!!


    • Michelle, I promise you: you do not want the FedEx time-out. Talk about ranting and raving like a lunatic… I mean, seriously? Twelve hour window? Oh man, I better not get started on this again.

      So happy to hear your daughter is more than halfway through college. Sometimes, in my dark hours, I truly worry about that. We have similar situations, in that my younger son is the self-starter too. I never have to check his grades, because he gives me a daily report (his is obsessive, like his Mama, I guess, God help him).

      We’ll see how this marking period goes. If it does’t work, I am coming back to you for more specific advice. My list of Things To Ask Michelle is growing:

      1. Nutrition
      2. Parenting
      3. Academic advice

      Let’s see what else we can add 🙂


      • Oh Josie!
        You are too kind to me 🙂 AND, I just marvel at how similar we must be. Here is my list of Things to Ask Josie

        1. How to always find the miracle in the day’s mishaps
        2. How to keep that glorious smile
        3. How to get motivated to start running again

        Of the three you listed for me? #1 is about the only thing I’m actually qualified to do. I keep worrying my parenting license is going to be revoked!!

        I hope you’ve had a great weekend…winter is coming our way on Tuesday.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, setting goals, expectations,and boundaries and writing to do lists definitely help us to feel that we’re marshalling the chaos of life. And a Fedex lock in helps too! X

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad to hear something good a came out of the fed-ex fiasco!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re absolutely right on the grades situation. I don’t know where you’re located, but most high schools in the USA require students to earn a certain number of credits. Failing a class means no credit, and no credit means the student must repeat the class.

    If she’s a thoughtful type, the conversation might go something like this: “Failing? How sad! But don’t worry about it too much. Even when your friends graduate without you and go on to college, WE can still hang out together, right?”

    You may want to check out the Love and Logic series of books – it helped me immensely in setting dispassionate boundaries and levying natural consequences.


    • Years ago I read 1 2 3 Magic, I think that might be part of that series? And it was wonderful.

      Thank you for this suggestion, I wouldn’t have thought to check literature surrounding this subject (DUH!), and now I am going to do just that.

      Really appreciate this advice 🙂


      • I’m pretty sure they’re different books and different approaches.

        123 Magic is super complicated, compared to L&L. The constant counting and “time out” math involved in 123M is beyond me, especially when I’m already trying hard not to get emotionally involved in whatever situation is going on.

        I encourage you to find whatever works best for your situation. L&L definitely worked for me!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Not sure what I can add re: high school stuff, but as for goal setting – sounds like you got this one nailed, Josie. I am nowhere near where you are in this. I am still too much a last-minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person (ok, I am a typical GUY, okay??? LOL) Boundaries is something I work on, and goal setting is something very, very foreign to me (see last minute comment above). Winging it has always been my MO. Now it seems that kids change that …lol.

    Anyway, glad all is well, and thanks for this – maybe I should rethink about how I do some things!!!



    • Yeah, nailed it… in theory, big time. But as we like to say back and forth, it’s all about the progress. Just need to relax a bit and realize it’s all happening for a reason.

      And you’re saying you’re a “winging it” type of guy, but I’m pretty sure that marathon did not get run without a decent amount of planning and goal setting, n’est pas?

      Happy birthday weekend, my friend. I hope the plans you made (see that? another plan!) turn out wonderful!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh my God, Josie, I could have written the thing about grades in first marking period. Same exactly situation. Those 60%s on vocabulary quizzes or missed homeworks drove me nuts. I’m not sure if online access to grades is a good thing or not for parents. I feel like I’m in 8th grade all over again, only worrying about it this time. Maybe it’s a karma thing.

    And I can also relate to the fluid, changing goals of eating and exercise, and so many other things. This feels right and realistic and usually pretty healthy too. It’s like we’re letting up on ourselves and finding progress or peace or hopefully both.

    As for blogging, I so get this. Comparison is such a devil, but I do it too more than I’d like. In the end, I always answer this way: I write because I enjoy it and I hope someone else gets something from it.


    • I’m glad it sounds healthy and right and realistic, I’m pretty sure (at least with the diet portion) it is not. But, as usual, the blogging world is an amazing thing: I write about it, I feel better. People respond, I feel better still. I am so very fortunate to have found this world, in general, and you, in particular.

      You are gearing up to run as I type this. I am thinking about you, and cannot wait to hear all about it 🙂


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