Planning for successful life change S.M.A.R.T.

Apr 6, 2020

Perhaps you may have read my other posts "How high is your motivation to change" or "Ending an old Habit, beginning a new habit".

This post builds on the above posts in that motivation and habit is essential in achieving change, having a plan is critical to ensure success.

I am going to describe now what a S.M.A.R.T plan is

S     stands for a Specific goal.

M   stands for a Measurable goal.

A   stands for an Achievable goal

R   stands for Relevant goal

T   stands for Timely goal

A  specific plan could be around changing alcohol use for example.

An ineffective "plan" could run as follows.  It is New Years Eve, midnight and Joe states his resolution.  "Im going to really cut right back next year" after a concerned friend  has commented on Joes frequent binges and blackouts.  

Can you see Joes "wriggle room" in this resolution ?

  1. Specific ? What exactly is Joe committing to cut back on?

2.   Measurable ? How much is Joe planning to cut back ?

3.  Achievable ?  Maybe, given the quantity of reduction has not been stated.

4.  Relevant ? Is this proposed goal relevant to Joe or just to Joes friend. How motivated is he ?

5.  Timely ? When is this change going to happen ? Next month, next week ?

An effective SMART plan keeps us accountable to ourself and to those who are supporting us with our goal.

A much improved SMART Plan for Joe would be as follows.

My plan is to drink no more than one 750ml bottle of wine once a week. No other alcohol whatsoever. I plan to start Jan 2  2020 and to begin weekly counselling.  So far the plan is specific and measurable. Is it achievable ?

Joe recalls that he has managed his drinking to less than 1 bottle per week previously so it is an achievable and  realistic goal.

Is the plan relevant to Joe ? He has looked at his motivation how high is your motivation to change and he has reached decision stage. He is highly motivated to change and so the goal is relevant to him. Joe has also stated a time frame for starting his goal, the frequency of his drinking and alcohol counselling.

In counselling Joe has come to an understanding of his CUES to drink.  (Ending an old habit, beginning a new habit) Joes new habit is to avoid his "party animal" peer group and has chosen a new peer group and activity group (day hikes) that he found on MEET UP. Joe also has a plan for times where he is most likely to be triggered into a relapse.

We are all much more likely to relapse or go "off plan" when we get into a deprivation state. If we can avoid getting into deprivation states we really can maximise staying on track, not just with sobriety but with any change.

A deprivation state is when we are..

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

H. A. L. T.

In a deprivation state we tend to revert to our older, previous, coping mechanisms, such as overeating or substance abuse, gambling or overworking.

Joe avoids his deprivation states by making sure he is plugged in socially to friends and family, who he can talk to. Joe is also much more careful around his general self care and getting enough sleep, the right food and he also keeps quickly prepared food in his freezer for deprivation times.

  • Counselling can support change in the following ways ....
  • Clarify and enhance motivation around goals
  • Explore viable options around new habits, new possibilities
  • Support with a viable SMART plan (including plan around deprivation states)
  • Keeping us accountable in reaching goal.

Some of my other posts

Making Depression the Enemy

What Makes a Meaningful life

Love Addiction

Martin Fraser, B.A. (Hons) Psyc. Dip Counselling.

Particular interest in enhancing resilience in my community against Depression, Anxiety, Isolation and Addictions. Member of NZ Assoc Counsellors.

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