Goal Pivoting

Blog · May 12, 2020

This week is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Prevention Week. National Prevention week is a public education platform that promotes prevention through providing ideas, capacity-building, tools, and resources to help individuals and communities make substance use prevention happen every day. This week we recognize the small actions that amount to ongoing prevention through practicing social-emotional skills development. It’s through everyday use of key skills that we strengthen resiliency and prevent substance use and abuse.

Beyond the conventional wisdom that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Prevention Research indicates that when a child develops social emotional competencies and an accurate perception of harm, they are more likely to resist substance use. For nearly 50 years, the Mendez Foundation has been working to prepare children and adolescents to resist risky behavior like substance use. Through the development of its evidence-based curricula, this work continues to reach children and adolescents everywhere. These EBPs are grounded in social-emotional skill development and prevention research. Each program begins with a series of five social-emotional skill development lessons: 

  • Goal Setting
  • Responsible Decision Making
  • Identifying and Managing Emotions
  • Effective Communication
  • Bonding and Relationships


The first lesson in each program focuses on the skill of Goal Setting. When we set and achieve goals, we build self-efficacy and strengthen our sense of hope and enthusiasm for the future. Goal setting is a strong preventative measure, equipping youth with reasons to stay on track and make responsible decisions. But what happens when unforeseen circumstances threaten to thwart progress? When things outside of our control get in the way of achieving goals, how we react can be an opportunity in and of itself.


For many of us, goals and plans have been interrupted by recent events. Whether our goals are personal, such as mastering the art of French cooking, or reaching a specific strength training target; or professional, such as delivering an inspiring speech to the graduating class or establishing a community Prevention Week Fair; set-backs can be frustrating and sometimes cause us to want to throw in the towel altogether.

When circumstances change, however, we have an opportunity to step back and reevaluate our goals. This slight pause can illuminate new and innovative tactics for achieving our goals that we may have missed, had we stayed the original course. We may find that there are some sub-steps in our goal which can be leaned into further as a result of the change in circumstances. We may reprioritize the steps in our goals to adapt to the new landscape. We might even gain new skills which can help us achieve our goals, such as learning how to host a productive virtual event. The key to a successful goal-pivot is not to focus on the negative, but instead focus on what you CAN do right here, right now. Allow time and space for creativity to take shape.

You know the scene in a movie when things look hopeless but the heroes Woman accomplishing a goal at homesuddenly change tactics to achieve success? We can do the same thing by taking stock in our goals and making thoughtful adaptations to our plans. Maybe we can’t go to the gym to work on our fitness goals, but we can find new and inventive ways to challenge ourselves and stay on track. Many find success by posting progress towards fitness goals in virtual message boards or online groups. Switching from the stair-master to climbing actual stairs may even help us reach goals more quickly. Perhaps we can’t attend our French cooking classes in person, but instead we can attend classes virtually, discovering new recipes and resources along the way. Maybe the longer-term planning required in today’s circumstances will inspire skillful week-long menu planning, allowing for innovation with new techniques for using fewer ingredients.

Remember, resilience is a form of emotional intelligence that means we’re able to move through challenging experiences and overcome obstacles in constructive ways. Adapting our goals when circumstances change is a skill that not only increases resiliency, but also allows us to practice creativity and resolve in the face of unforeseen challenges. Prevention happens when we build our social-emotional competencies and practice critical skills such as Goal Setting every day in small ways. Add your Goal Setting success stories to the National Prevention Week challenge on our Facebook page with the hashtag #PreventionHappensHere

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