What is the difference between a “Goal” and a “Resolution”? More specifically a “New Year’s Resolution”. Why do so many people make New Year’s Resolutions when they should be making goals for the new year?
This year my wife asked if I have made my goals for the year. Of course I hadn’t, but that is beside the point. What she said and the way she said it made sense to me. Why did she say “goal” and not “resolution”? Let’s look at the difference between the two.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of “resolution” in this manner is “a formal expression of opinion, will, or intent voted by an official body or assembled group”, with a single person being the official body. So a New Year’s resolution is only your opinion, will or intent to do something for the upcoming year. That doesn’t sound very solid when you put it that way. I can intend to go to the market today, but get side-tracked by a squirrel.
How about we look at the base source “resolution” which is “resolve”. Merriam-Webster’s definition is “to reach a firm decision about <resolve to get more sleep> <resolve disputed points in a text>”. Once again, to resolve something is to make a firm decision to do something, but has nothing to do with actually doing the action.
Now let’s look at a goal. Merriam-Webster defines a goal as “the end toward which effort is directed”. The key points is there is effort and there is an end. A resolution is only a decision to do something while a goal states that you have to do something. In a sense you can say “I resolve to make goals for myself this year”. A proper goal should have a measurable end and a time in which to do it.
Typically a goal is something a person strives towards. It is an accomplishment while a resolution is something a person says they are going to do. So why does everybody make a big deal about New Year’s Resolutions? They are going to be broken by most people and many people make them only half-hearted. Maybe the reason everybody makes a New Years Resolution is because it is a “fad” that everybody does, but nobody truly expects you to complete. Maybe it is because a resolution is only a decision and people don’t feel the need to go any further with it, nor do they have the desire. This is why I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions and I don’t remember ever making one.
That all changed this year (sort-of) when my wife asked if I have made my goals. A New Year’s Resolution is a fad that everybody does every year. If broken, everybody thinks none the worse and says “better luck next year”. But goals are different. A goal is personal. it has an end, it has value, it has a timeline. If you set goals and fall short, you have lost. Goals have more and deeper meaning to people.
Think about a soccer game. If a player shoots and misses, the look on their face is disappointment. When they score a goal, the whole team celebrates. It is a big deal. How about someone who sets a goal to earn their masters degree. The goal has deep meaning and to achieve it means a great accomplishment. Both of those goals have purpose, a defined end result.
So this year I recommend you resolve to make goals for yourself. Don’t say “I resolve get in shape”, say that “I will form a habit by the end of February of working out for an hour a day, five days a week”. Make solid, concrete measurable goals for yourself.
This year I still did not make any resolutions… instead I made goals.