My dietitian introduced me to SMART goals and I find that they are a very useful and helpful concept. It feels to me like taking the ‘baby step’ approach which is often what is needed when recovering from mental illness.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based. So the goals that you set for yourself must be clear and well defined, you must be able to know when the goal has been achieved but it also must be something that is possible and not too far away. You should make a time frame for your goal which is suitable-it must be enough time to achieve the goal but not too much time so that you don’t feel unmotivated.
When first asked what my goals for recovery were I answered:
- Being able to eat any food.
- Have something more important to me than anorexia.
- No longer obsess over weight and shape
- Live instead of exist.
- Less thoughts of self harm and suicide.
- Able to love myself and others.
These goals are very big and broad. It would take a long time to achieve some of them and others are not specific nor measurable so it would be difficult to know when they have been achieved. SMART goals break these down into little chunks, for example “I will eat a new food a Friday” which will help me to become comfortable with a ‘fear food’ and slowly I can build on this goal in order to reach the big goal of being able to eat any food.
I think that SMART goals are definitely helpful when recovering from mental illness, they can be used for all sorts of illnesses and phobias. Whether you have the goal of catching a bus or going out with a friend or taking your medication or not giving into OCD, setting small, achievable goals can help you to reach the huge goal of recovery.