Effective Goal Setting vs. Resolutions

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We tend to make a fuss regarding resolutions each year, but identifying the changes to be made in the coming year won’t necessarily lead to the desired modification in your life.

The main difference between resolutions and goals is that resolutions are statements of intention, while goals are statements of commitment – with a plan to accomplish them.


Goals vs. Resolutions


  • Resolutions tend to encompass dreams which may be unrealistic or highly challenging. On the other hand, goals tend to be grounded in reality or experience.


  • Resolutions focus on results. Goals include a means to achieve, along with the desired result.


  • Resolutions often focus on personal matters, i.e., losing a few pounds. On the other hand, goals tend to address personal and professional achievement.


  • Failing to accomplish resolutions often only involves personal disappointment. However, missing goals may carry consequences, such as missing a promotion, a pay raise, or being selected for a sports team.


A resolution is often about self-care, actions designed to improve one’s health or well-being. The challenging aspect of resolutions is that they often involve abrupt behavior change, which must occur at a given time, such as January 1st. People making resolutions frequently desire an extremely difficult or impossible result, with no interim steps to advance toward the ultimate objective.

Consequently, resolutions are many times abandoned when immediate results fall short. The “all-or-nothing” approach leads to complete failure when unrealistic aspirations are unmet. By February 1st, many sincere “resolutionists” discard their good intentions and revert to previous behavior patterns.

The bottom line; many resolutions are not well thought out but merely impulsive decisions by people to attempt to change something about themselves that is objectionable or distasteful. When reality intervenes, the individual is ill-equipped to deal with the trial, and the experiment fails.

A well-planned goal is many things that a resolution isn’t. It is specific, lose fifty pounds in twelve months, vs. regain my youthful figure. A goal should be realistic, measurable, and realistically accomplished in the time frame provided. Goals may challenge the limits of a person’s abilities but should never be naïve.

Goals may be flexible. For example, if circumstances beyond the goal-setter’s control change and affect their capacity to achieve that goal, then modify the goal.

Goals should provide direction. For example, they should offer actions that, if followed as prescribed, will move the individual toward success. In addition, they may include milestones, against which the goal setters can gauge their progress and make adjustments if proper advancement lags.

Goals may include the resources, human or otherwise, which are necessary to achieve the desired result. In addition, they may describe how and when the resources will be utilized.

As mentioned above, goals often carry consequences, which motivate the individual to pay attention to the plan and avoid procrastination. Success has its rewards, intended to inspire even greater subsequent achievement. Failure will mean loss of some sort, also designed to engender improved performance in the future.

Whether setting goals or making resolutions, it’s essential to understand what you desire and how to reach it.

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