Hodgins: Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you have the whole world to support you, success can be just out of reach.
Bones: Then success must be redefined as that which can be accomplished.
From Bones Season 11, Episode 14 – Last Shot at a Second Chance
I was in an IOP group recently, and the group leader said something similar about goals. For this group we had to set daily goals. One time when someone was saying how she did not meet any of her goals, the group leader said that the stance in DBT is that if someone did not reach his/her goals, that does not mean the person failed. Rather, it means that it was simply the wrong goal. For example, let’s say someone set the goal of meeting her meal plan 100% every single day, but one day had a slip and did not meet 100%. From a DBT perspective, she did not fail. Rather, it just means that the goal should have been “eat 100% 6/7 days.”
Now I’m not saying that restricting is ok, nor am I saying that people shouldn’t set goals that are challenging. A big part of recovery is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and that means setting goals that are hard. However, I also think it’s important to be realistic and remember that recovery is all about baby steps. I know a lot of people, myself included, who tend to see one slip as a failure, or feel unsuccessful at recovery because it is such a slow process.
I think what Dr. Hodgins says is definitely true. Sometimes I don’t reach my goals because I don’t utilize supports or my skills. However, it is also possible to have all the tools and supports in the world, but still not reach the goal. With that in mind, I think it’s important to keep in mind what Bones says. Not reaching a goal doesn’t always mean you failed – maybe it means you need to redefine what it means to succeed.
Take the meal plan example. I could sit here and say that I am not succeeding at recovery because I have not met my meal plan 100% every single day since getting out of inpatient. However, I am probably doing the best I have done in a long time. That is not to say that I shouldn’t still continue to aim for 100%, or that restricting is ok. But, that doesn’t mean that I need to call myself a failure. If I define success with other markers, such as drinking an ensure when I can’t fit in a meal, or making sure to always eat a snack when driving home from work, then I am succeeding.
Again, I want to make it clear that I am not saying that restricting is ok, or that the goal shouldn’t always be to aim for 100%. Rather, I am saying that instead of getting caught up in a swarm of negativity, sometimes it is helpful to remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be successful.