Setting SMART Goals for ADHD Habit Change

ADHD & Marriage News - June 2, 2022

Quote of the Week

“My wife and I took your seminar, and really learned a lot, although we're still struggling.  I have a question about SMART goals. It's easy to set up a goal for something like exercise (i.e. 30 min, 4x/week), but I'm having a hard time thinking of how to have a measurable goal for something more amorphous. One of my target symptoms is emotional dysregulation... Would it make sense to count how often I'm dysregulated, and then try to reduce that number? It seems very non-specific. And I'm not always sure when I'm being dysregulated, and I'm not sure I'd always agree with my wife.”

- couples seminar participant

Setting SMART Goals for ADHD Habit Change

Are there elements of the dysregulation that are characteristic of what you are trying to change?   For example, yelling, cursing, eye rolling, feeling shut down and needing to be in your own space?  If so, you might be able to use those specific behaviors as the thing to count/measure using SMART*.  "For the next 2 weeks I will yell no more than 3 times."  If you disagree about what constitutes yelling, use your wife's definition, as she's on the receiving end.  My experience is that those who are yelling are often not aware they are doing so.

Over time, if you address a number of characteristic behaviors related to emotional dysregulation you should be able to improve the emotional functioning in your relationship.  At the same time, I would also suggest you add ‘treatments’ such as exercise, better sleep, and mindfulness training, which are also helpful in diminishing emotional outbursts.  That way it’s not just changing the behaviors, it’s changing the inputs to that lead to those behaviors.  BOTH are important.

*SMART is an effective tool for holding oneself accountable and effecting change in ADHD-impacted relationships.  It is a way of setting goals that are specific, and therefore allow you to understand whether or not you were successful in meeting that good.  SMART stands for Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Repeatable; and Time-Bound.  Google it if you want to find out more.



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