As we come upon a new year, many people take advantage of the change in the calendar to revaluate their life and think about what they would like to change. Many people start out the New Year making resolutions, or promises to pick up good habits or stop bad ones, or otherwise make a sweeping change.
Sadly, most people who set resolutions are not able to keep them, and end up getting discouraged when they feel like they've "failed." Instead of creating a "resolution," you're better off setting a "goal."
Goals may seem similar to resolutions, but they are crafted in such a way to better set you up for success. Here are some reasons you might want to consider thinking in terms of goals, instead of resolutions.
1) Resolutions focus only on surface things; goals allow you to dig deeper
Resolutions can easily become just about checking a box, about doing one or two things that seem "good," but unconnected to a larger purpose or what really matters about life. Goals go deeper then simply following imposed rules.
When thinking about your goals for the year, take time to really dream and dig deep. What kind of a life do you want to have? What are you struggling with currently, and what would it mean to be free of that? In order for a goal to stick, it should be something that feels really meaningful to you.
2) Resolutions are all or nothing; goals are manageable and measurable
"Go to the gym every day." "Become organized all the time." Resolutions tend to be framed as black-and-white commitments, a huge sounding transforming with no room for flexibility.
The main problem with such a huge, inflexible resolution is that it ends up intimidating you and seeming unachievable. Goals, on the other hand, are more focused and clear.
The key to crafting a good goal is to be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based. Setting a goal big enough to motivate you, but small enough to feel achievable is what will set you up for success to work on real transformation.
3) Resolutions often frame things negatively; goals are framed positively
Resolutions are often motivated by something you are unhappy with in your current life and behavior, and that often becomes the focus of your resolution. Negatively framed "rules" invite subconscious rebellion, since it feels like you're putting an unfair restriction on yourself, and this makes it a lot harder to achieve your goal.
Rather then spend all your time focusing on stopping negative behavior, think about positive behavior you can emphasize instead. For example, if you decide you should be eating healthier and make the resolution "I will avoid eating sweets this year," you will just be thinking about all the chocolate and sugar you'll be deprived of.
However, the goal I will eat vegetables or fruit every day, and just one piece of candy each week," places the emphasis on enjoying living a new lifestyle.
4) Resolutions focus on outcome; goals focus on process
Well-crafted goals should lead to a specific action plan, or very small, concrete steps you can take to ensure you are achieving them. Although at first it is helpful to visualize a desirable outcome, in the end what really matters is the day-by-day inching towards our goals, making lots of little decisions consistent with a larger goal.
So, after you've come up with and written down a goal, think about what small steps you can take to achieve that goal. Then, go out and do them, starting with the smallest step that is going to take you closer to your goal.
5) Resolutions end when you've broken them; goals enable you to keep going no matter what
Resolutions get created in a breathless moment of self-confidence and optimism that "this time will be different," and that sudden, radical change is possible. However, the truth is that moments of failure are inevitable.
You are not always going to be able to stick to your resolution completely, and it can be very easy to, at this point, get discouraged and give up. Yet, setting a goal allows you to be prepared for setbacks and struggles.
Detours and roadblocks are an opportunity to reaffirm why the goal matters, and then work out an action plan. If you do find yourself mindlessly snacking on unhealthy food, rather then giving up, simply be generous with yourself, and think about how you can plan for your vulnerabilities – by packing light snacks, for example.