How Goal Setting Is Different Than a New Year's Resolution

Kim Butler

23 December 2016

The start of the New Year… a single moment when the clock strikes 12 and the slate is wiped clean as we resolve to lose weight, get out of debt, stop procrastinating, enjoy life more — and we seal it all with a kiss. And ta-da! Will power is born and we expect it to take over.

I should pause here and say that I am not trying to bash New Year’s resolutions or goal setting at the start of the New Year. In fact, I, too, take this time of year to dream, set goals and plan. But I would argue that intentional goal setting and making traditional New Year’s resolutions are two very different things.

Goal setting, when done well, is a disciplined practice that gives us measurable milestones connecting our personal or business mission and vision to the daily choices and activities that make up our lives.

In contrast, resolutions tend to be made out of a desire for dramatic change, and so often there is very little thought to the commitment that they require — especially when made at midnight parties.

It’s not that a resolution isn’t a goal. Resolutions almost always are goals, they just don’t typically have the essential elements of good goals.

A good goal is intentionally connected to your mission and vision, or your “why” as Simon Sinek and Don Yaeger call it. A good goal is also:

— Written or typed so you can refer to it often
— SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely)
— Considered from many different angles, taking into account the dedication, time, finances, impact on relationships, etc. that it will take to achieve it
— Reviewed daily
— Attached to accountability (someone or something to help hold you accountable)

Now let’s look at the stats on New Year’s resolutions.

— The top 5 New Year’s resolutions are: lose weight; get organized; spend less, save more; enjoy life to the fullest; get fit and healthy.
— 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.
— Only 8% of people are successful in their resolutions.

While there isn’t data regarding how many goal setters succeed, there is significant research regarding practical steps to improving your chances of goal achievement. For example, people with written goals are 50% more likely to achieve their goals. There is also strong evidence that looking at goals daily and having something or someone to hold you accountable (a coach, an app, a documented record, for example) to your goals further increases the likelihood of success.

The reality is that people who set intentional goals achieve those goals more often than not. Those who resolve on New Year’s Eve fail more often than not.

So while a resolution is a type of goal, a well-written SMART goal that is in line with your mission and vision is going to serve you better.

This year, let’s not resolve at midnight simply for tradition’s sake; instead, let’s take the time to consider the focus of the year ahead and set intentional goals that support where we want to be next year at this time.

Let’s lead!

Kim Butler

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