"There is magic in setting and writing down goals."

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Episode 66 -- November 30, 2020

Looking Ahead: Set Your Own Goals

We don't need to wait for the New Year to make some goals. In fact, it's well-known that we need to have things in our lives to look forward to, and goals can be how do that. Back in Episode 35, we learned about codependency from Melody Beattie, in her book Codependent No More. Whether we identify as someone who's codependent or not, all of us in recovery can take some notes from Melody about how to find the joy in setting goals. The holidays are coming up, we've been under great stress during this abnormal year. Maybe our first goals are the ones we've been working on all along: to preserve our recovery and keep our side of the street clean. Then, after that, what do we want to do? Let's take a moment to think. Dream. Find some joy.

It has been edited for brevity.

The most exciting idea I have discovered in my sobriety and my recovery from codependency is the magic in setting goals. Things happen. Things change. I accomplish important projects. I change. I meet new people. I find myself in interesting places. I make it through difficult times with a minimum of chaos. Problems get solved. My needs and wants get met. Dreams come true.

I am ecstatic about goal setting, and I hope I can transmit my enthusiasm to you. There is nothing in the world like going where we want to go, getting what we want, solving a problem, or doing something we always wanted to do.

Many codependents don't know this joy. It is new to me too. I spent many years of my life not even bothering to think about what I wanted and needed, where I wanted to go, and what I wanted to do. Life was to be endured. I didn't think I deserved good things. I didn't think most good things were within my reach. I wasn't that interested in my life, except as an appendage to other people. I didn't think about living my life; I was too focused on others. I was too busy reacting, rather than acting.

Goals also give us direction and purpose. Goals are fun. They generate interest and enthusiasm in life. They make life interesting and, sometimes, exciting.

There is magic in setting and writing down goals. It sets into motion a powerful psychological, spiritual, and emotional force. We become aware of and do the things we need to do to achieve and accomplish. Things come to us. Things begin to happen!

What are our goals? What do we want to happen in our lives—this week, this month, this year, for the next five years? What problems do we want solved? What material things would we like to possess? What changes do we want to make in ourselves? What would we love to do for a career? What do we want to accomplish? I'm not going to present a textbook lecture on exactly how you should set goals. Setting goals has been made too boring for too long. Following are some ideas I believe are important. Find a way that works.

  • Turn everything into a goal. If we have a problem make its solution our goal. We don't have to know the solution. Our goal is solving this problem. Do we want something? A new waterbed, a red sweater, a new car, longer hair, longer nails? Turn it into a goal. Do we want to go someplace—Europe, South America, the circus? Do we want a loving, healthy relationship? Turn that into a goal. Is there something we've always wanted to do—go to school, work for a particular company, make $40,000 a year? Turn it into a goal. Do we need to decide what we want to do for a career? Turn making a decision into a goal. Do we want to grow closer to God, go to church every Sunday, or read the Bible every day? Turn it into a goal. Do we want to change something about ourselves—learn to say no, make a particular decision, resolve some anger? Turn it into a goal. Do we want to improve our relationships with certain people—children, friends, spouse, a relative? Turn it into a goal. Do we want to form new relationships, lose weight, gain weight, quit worrying, stop controlling? Do we want to learn to have fun, learn to enjoy sex, achieve acceptance of some particular person or incident, forgive someone? I believe we can successfully turn every aspect of our lives into a goal. If it bothers us, make it a goal. If we're aware something needs to be changed, make it a goal. If we want it, make it a goal.
  • Omit the shoulds. We have enough shoulds controlling our lives; we don't need them in our goals. Make it a goal to get rid of 75 percent of our shoulds.
  • Don't limit ourselves. Go for all of it: everything we want and need, all the problems we want solved, all our desires, and even some of our whims. Don't worry. If we're not supposed to have it, we won't. If we are supposed to have it, I believe we'll stand an improved chance of getting it by turning it into a goal.
  • Write our goals on paper. There is extraordinary power in jotting down goals, rather than storing them loosely in our minds. We worry less, we have less to think about, and it gives focus and organization to our goals. Recording our goals also helps us direct our energy and be in contact with our Higher Power. We don't have to write our goals neatly or perfectly, or use particular words or systems. Commit them to paper—all of them.
  • Commit our written goals to God. Tell God these are the things we're interested in, ask for His help, then surrender humbly. It's called, "Thy will be done, not mine."
  • Let go. Keep our goals close, where we can look at them as we need to but don't worry and obsess about how, when, if, and what if. Some people suggest we monitor our goals daily. I don't, except when I'm setting daily goals. But you can do it any way you choose. Once my goals are on paper, I try to not control or force.
  • Do what we can, one day at a time. Within the framework of each 24-hour day, do what seems fitting and appropriate. Do God's will for us, that day. Do what we are inspired to do. Do what comes our way that needs to be done. Do it in peace and faith. Marvelous things can and do come to pass this way. Try it. We have to do our part. But I believe we can and will do our part best by doing it one day at a time. If it's time to do something, we'll know. If it's time for something to happen, it will. Trust ourselves and God.
  • Set goals regularly and as needed. I like to do my annual goals at the beginning of each new year. It indicates to me that I am interested in living my life that particular year. I don't believe in New Year's resolutions; I believe in goals. I also write down goals as they occur to me throughout the year. If I am facing a problem, spot a need, feel a new want, I turn it into a goal and add it to my list. I also use goals to get me through crisis times, when I'm feeling shaky. Then, I write down all the things I want and need to accomplish on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
  • Check off the goals we reach. Yes, we will start reaching our goals. Our wants and needs will get met. We will achieve certain things that are important to us. When this happens, cross off that goal, congratulate ourselves, and thank God. We will gain confidence in ourselves, in goal setting, in God, and in the rhythm of life this way. We will see for ourselves that good things do happen to us. We may never be without a list of problems that we need to turn into goals. We will probably never be without wants and needs. But this process of goal setting, besides making life more enjoyable, helps develop a certain faith in the ebb and flow and general goodness of life. Problems arise. Problems get solved. Wants and needs come into awareness. Wants and needs get met. Dreams are born. Dreams are reached. Things happen. Good things happen. Then, more problems arise. But it's all okay.
  • Be patient. Trust in God's timing. Don't take an item off the list if it's still important to us just because we didn't achieve or receive something when we thought we should have; the wretched shoulds infiltrate every area of our lives. Sometimes, my goals carry over for years. When I do my annual goal setting, I have looked at my sheet and thought, "Oh, this problem will never get solved. It's been on my list for years." Or, "This dream will never come true. It's the fourth year in a row I've written it down." Or, "I'll never be able to change this character defect of mine." Not true. It just hasn't happened yet.

Things happen when the time is right—when we're ready, when God is ready, when the world is ready. Give up. Let go. But keep it on our list.

We need to set goals for ourselves. Start today—when you finish this chapter. If you don't have any goals, make your first goal "getting some goals." You probably won't start living happily ever after, but you may start living happily.

About the Author:
In addiction and recovery circles, Melody Beattie is a household name. She is the best-selling author of numerous books, including Codependent No More, Beyond Codependency, The Language of Letting Go, More Language of Letting Go, and 52 Weeks of Conscious Contact. Her first book, Codependent No More, was published by Hazelden in 1986.

Melody's compassionate and insightful look into codependency--the concept of losing oneself in the name of helping another--struck a universal chord among families struggling with a loved one's addiction. Twenty years later, the concepts continue to ring true for millions worldwide, as the book has sold more than four million copies and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Melody currently has 13 titles with Hazelden and several more with other publishers. One of Melody's more recent titles with Hazelden is, The Grief Club, which was published in 2006. This inspirational book gives the reader an inside look at the miraculous phenomenon that occurs after loss--the being welcomed into a new "club" of sorts, a circle of people who have lived through similar grief and pain, whether it be the loss of a child, a spouse, a career, or even one's youth.

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