I want to wish everyone the happiest and healthiest of holidays, whatever holiday you are celebrating. Enjoy the season and do share that joy with all. Maybe after enjoying a bit too much, you may come around shortly to the next common tradition of setting resolutions. Indeed, a resolution not to indulge quite so much often follows holiday merriment. This presents me with an opportunity to suggest we look at resolutions vs. goals before the New Year.

Next month social media will be a buzz with a wide array of resolutions. Some may resolve NOT to do something while others will resolve to DO more of something else. Some will say they want to lose weight or resolve to start a new diet. I think we all want to be healthier and happier, but it is so common to think that takes some sustained special effort. I can’t help but wonder if resolutions are really all that good for us?

I mean, what is a resolution anyway? It’s not a goal; or is it? Sometimes people use the two words as if they mean the same thing. Goals and resolutions are related, but they are not actually synonyms. A resolution is an expression of will, as in “will-power”. An example might be, “I’m not eating ice cream anymore.” That’s a resolution, but it’s not a goal. And the risk with resolutions comes when will and desire diverge. The resolution is intact until the desire for ice cream overpowers the will to abstain. The feelings of failure that often follow are not really that helpful.

A goal on the other hand has the object of a person’s ambition or effort set as a target, but also requires one to be specific as to how a person will achieve them. Additionally, a timetable must be established to track the trajectory to the target. The most successful goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART).

So, a person might resolve to lose twenty-five pounds in the New Year, but it’s not a goal until that person creates a plan and timetable to arrive at that target. Sure, sometimes people do set unrealistic goals, but in my experience the mere exercise of clearly articulating what it is I want to achieve and how exactly I plan to get there does an amazing job of cementing both will and desire together. To say I will never eat ice cream again is probably a ticking, failure time-bomb waiting to go off and wreak havoc with both my will and self-esteem, but to say I will only have one serving of ice cream once a week between January and May is a goal even I can live with.

I think people are more likely to follow through with clearly articulated goals. And achieving a goal feels good and builds self-esteem. It sets a person up to repeat habits of success. I think I can go four months limiting myself to only one serving of ice-cream once a week. Achieving that goal lays a good foundation to repeat it if I like the outcome or change it if I don’t.

Before you make your next resolution, take a quick look at your past resolutions. Maybe it’s time to resolve giving up depressing resolutions in favor of success affirming goals. The key really is to be specific and write them down. Understand the difference between resolutions vs. goals. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Words can become action when we share our thoughts with others and words said out loud can be memorialized as a plan. So, tell me, what’s your plan and let’s put a date on the calendar when you plan to tell me, “I did it!”