"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." – Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor and businessman, best-known as the inventor of the light bulb, among many other inventions that revolutionized modern life (1847-1931)
Let’s face it. Nothing we ever truly want gets done unless we put our time and effort into achieving it. And this means that we give it everything that we’ve got, not just a ho-hum effort. With this in mind, think about the kinds of goals that we have been unable to achieve in the recent past. Then think about whether or not we truly did put all our energies into the task. The answer may surprise us.
Sure, it’s a lot easier to say we want something and put an item on our goal list. Maybe we do this to satisfy our need to get something down on paper or to show another, maybe our spouse or sponsor, that we’re doing something proactive for our recovery. Maybe we’re into conning ourselves a little bit. And, maybe, we sort of want this or that goal but we’re not really sure. Just for the sake of accomplishing something that’s recovery-oriented, however, we often just jot it down – and give it no further serious thought or much, if any effort.
No wonder we find ourselves more than a little dissatisfied with our lack of progress over time. The reality is, once again, that accomplishment requires action. And it is action that we have to take, not just think about or put off until sometime later, and not action that someone else does. If it is our goal and we truly want to put it into our success column, well, we’d better get to it.
Granted, not all goals are equal. Some require a great deal of work, a lot of sweat equity, so to speak. It isn’t that the goal is all that physical in nature, although some may be. Sweat also implies that we need to take the appropriate amount of time in preparing to take the required action as well as take time during the process of actually working on it to analyze what we’re doing, how we’re doing, and make any necessary adjustments to our process.
What we may find is that we’ve wasted some or a great deal of effort by not adequately preparing ourselves for the tasks. But this doesn’t mean that all is lost. On the contrary, it is actually a valuable learning experience. Naturally, we want to accomplish as much as possible in as short a period of time. That’s human nature, isn’t it? We want to succeed, to make progress toward our recovery and other life goals. These may or may not be the same. In truth, however, sometimes we have to recognize that we’re not going to be able to do everything all at once.
Here is where judicial expenditure of effort comes in. Translate that to mean that we expend the greatest amount of sweat – or energy – to the most pressing or immediate task, problem, challenge or difficulty that demands our attention. This is far better than scattering our energies, trying to do too much at once and finding as a result that we’re not really getting anything done.
But this kind of prudent approach doesn’t always come easily, especially if we’re still so new to recovery that we’ve carried over some of our "I want it right now" traits from our addictive past. If we don’t recognize it by those words, we can see how it plays out in young children who have temper tantrums and go into a certain amount of emotional distress when they don’t immediately get their way. Not that we are children, but sometimes the way we react emotionally is akin to that of a child that doesn’t know any better. Since we now do know better, it’s time to apply what we’ve learned to the most appropriate way to tackle goals and get things done.
In case we feel like we’re not up to the task, not to worry. We will get stronger with time. But this doesn’t mean that we can just sit back and wait for that time to come. There are actions that we can take in the meantime while we build up our foundation in recovery. What might those actions be? For one, we can ensure that we go to 12-step meetings. For another, we can increase the amount of our consumption of recovery literature. Frankly, we need to learn a lot more about life in recovery than we learned during rehab, as helpful and informative as that was.
This is also the time for us to begin to put together our recovery support network. This will undoubtedly include our sponsor and fellow group members in the rooms of recovery. It will also include, for most individuals, members of their family or other loved ones and close friends who support the individual’s recovery journey.
And, honestly, it takes a fair amount of courage to open up and even take the first step toward making new friendships and getting past our tendency toward isolation. We simply cannot hide away by ourselves, not if we hope to make any progress toward our recovery goals. That is because no one recovers alone. Even though we are the ones who have to exert the effort, to take the action required to achieve our goals, we can’t do it without the support and encouragement of those in our support network.
If we’re ready to get started, here are a few suggestions:
- Take the time to put together reasonably-achievable goals, separating them into short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals.
- Recognize that achieving any of our goals requires that we put forth sufficient effort (sweat) into every facet of the task or project.
- Understand that little setbacks or the inability to immediately achieve the goal doesn’t mean failure. It may mean that we need more time, more practice or experience, more knowledge, or more resources. Even if we only get halfway there, we have made progress. We’re that much closer to achieving the goal than if we’d never started.
- Never, ever give up on our goals. It may require modification or substitution of certain goals or application of different strategies to achieve them, but if we deem them worthwhile and really want to succeed with them, we simply have to keep them in the forefront of our minds.
- Talk about the goals that are important to us. Seek assistance and support when we need it.
- If we want results, be prepared to sweat the details.