How can resolutions and goals work together to create a productive life?
Making productive use of resolutions and goals in the new year
Welcome back, and happy new year! How have your holidays been? Did you spend time thinking about your goals for this year? Have you set resolutions? I thought the first episode of this year would be a good opportunity to talk about the difference between resolutions and goals, and how they can work together in your life.
If you've been following me for a while, you know I like to understand the meanings of the words we use. In the productivity space, we often throw around words that we're not always using correctly, or that we don't always know what those words actually mean. And a lot can be figured out by just understanding the meanings of those words. So I went to some online dictionaries.
- Resolution: “a firm decision to do or not to do something” – synonyms: intention, resolve, decision, intent, aim, plan
- Goal: “the end toward which effort is directed”
Let's talk about resolutions
The concept of making new year's resolutions has been around for centuries. According to “The History of New Year’s Resolutions”, the ancient Babylonians were the first to make them, over 4,000 years ago.
According to one study, the most common new year's resolutions are:
- Exercise more (38%)
- Lose weight (33%)
- Eat more healthily (32%)
- Take a more active approach to health (15%)
- Learn new skill or hobby (15%)
- Spend more time on personal wellbeing (12%)
- Spend more time with family and friends (12%)
- Drink less alcohol (12%)
- Stop smoking (9%)
It is a 4000-year-old practice, but “According to recent research, while as many as 45% of Americans say they usually make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving their goals.”
“According to Philip Clarke, psychology lecturer at the University of Derby Online Learning, the biggest mistake is that many people identify what they want to achieve but do not think about how to do it.”
“According to the time management firm FranklinCovey, one-third of resolutioners don’t make it past the end of January. A lot of these resolutions fail because they’re not the right resolutions. And a resolution may be wrong for one of three main reasons:
- It’s a resolution created based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change.
- It’s too vague.
- You don’t have a realistic plan for achieving your resolution.”
How to set meaningful resolutions
Make sure it’s something you want, not something you think you ought to want. Unless it is something you want, you will not be motivated to take action. Resolutions require effort, action, and intention, but you won't be able to stick with it if it is not truly meaningful to you.
Take time to think about this. Look deeply at yourself. Maybe you spent the end of last year doing this, or you are spending January thinking about the coming year and goals you want to accomplish and resolutions you want to make. What do you want to make a firm decision to do or not do this year? Why? Without a reason, it'll be hard to stick with it.
Be specific. Instead of saying “I will be more healthy,” say “I will not eat sugar.” If you want to work on an interest of yours such as writing a book, you can make the firm decision to write 15 minutes 5 days a week.
Develop a plan. If you've made the decision to write 15 minutes 5 days a week, which days will you write? When will your 15 minutes of writing happen – first thing in the morning, right after lunch, or at the end of the day? How will you write? Will you write on Scrivener on your computer, or will you write in your notebook with a fountain pen?
Make a firm decision to do it or not do it, because that’s what a resolution is. A resolution is not about “trying” to do something. It's a firm decision to do it.
Let's talk about goals
When it comes to identifying goals and actually achieving them, it starts with asking yourself the right questions.
1. What is the end you have in mind? What are you aiming toward?
“Goal setting is much more than simply saying you want something to happen. Unless you clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it the first place, your odds of success are considerably reduced.”
2. What effort will it take to achieve it?
- What are the specific actions you need to take?
- Identify potential obstacles (internal and external) and approaches to overcome them
3. Are you ready to exert that effort now? (This goes back to your why)
Be honest – it’s okay if the answer is no. Simply put it on the back burner for now.
As you're choosing and formulating your goals, consider process goals instead of outcome goals. Examples:
- I will work out 5 days per week, 20 minutes each day, for the next 90 days vs. I will lose 10 pounds
- I will identify and apply for 5 new jobs in my field vs. I will get a new job
Why are process goals more effective?
- Because we can’t always control the outcome, but we can control our actions.
- Because process goals result in developing productive habits, which lead to better results in the long run. Consistent small actions are more effective than occasional dramatic actions.
Wise words for the goal-oriented: “Don't get so focused on the destination that you miss the journey.”
Remember to set SMART goals:
- Specific: Avoid making your goal general or vague
- Measurable: You can tell whether you've done it
- Achievable/Attainable: It is within the realm of possibility for you
- Realistic/Relevant: Set a goal that is achievable within a realistic timeline and is relevant to the stage of life you're in
- Time-bound: Set a time-limit such as how much time you'll spend a day or the period of time you'll devote to this goal.
Keep in mind that making the firm decision to pursue a specific end changes us before the goal is ever achieved:
“A great life is determined by the amazing goals you commit to, not necessarily achieve . . . So many of us think what makes our life amazing is the circumstances of our life, it's what's happening, it's how much money we have, it's our relationships, it's our children. But really, what makes our life amazing is what we think about. And when we think about an amazing future, when we think about our life becoming and being even better than it is now, from a place of abundance, we get to create that experience now. And so, don’t wait until you achieve your goals to experience the effect of them. The effect of your goals is experienced when you set them, not when you achieve them. When you commit to them, when you believe in them, that's when the magic starts to happen.”
~ Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School Podcast, episode 225
What do you think?
- The History of New Year’s Resolutions
- The most common New Year’s resolutions – and how to stick to them”
- “How to Make (and Keep) a New Year’s Resolution”
- “Golden Rules of Goal Setting”
- Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School Podcast, episode 225
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