Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goals vs. Resolutions

Each year, at or around this time, we hear lot's of talk surrounding the term, "resolutions." The dictionary defines this term as-A firm resolve to do or not to do something. We tend to place a great deal of stock in decisions and commitments that are made on January 1st of each calendar year. I have found in my personal experience that goal-setting is a much more effective method of achieving personal development objectives. Within this post I attempt to highlight some of the benefits of goal-setting vs. setting resolutions.

For starters, whenever I hear the term, "resolutions" the first things that come to mind are: restrictions, bondage, misery, punishment, and forced behaviorial changes. It's extremely difficult to see the value in a particular lifestyle change, when and if we are only adhering to this change in EFFORTS to remain true to some nonsensical decision made under the influence of the annual holiday.

Goals, on the other hand, tend to come with some sense of accomplishment. A great deal of research and thought usually precedes the setting of goals, and upon realizing written goals, confidence tends to soar, we experience drastic boosts in self-esteem, and we live with the awareness that the achievement of our goals means that we are in fact successful.

Here is an example: John states on January 1st that he will give up smoking in the new year. John is stressed, bursting at the seams, and trying with all of his might to stick with the resolution that was established at the start of the year. However, there is a 99% chance that John will falter, and that he will break from his aim of giving up smoking.

In June of the same year, Dave establishes a goal of giving up smoking by the month of December. Dave wants to be alive to see his kids graduate from high school. At the time that he establishes this goal, Dave is smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. He cuts back over time to half a pack per day. He rewards himself for this cutback. He then moves down to five cigarettes per day. He rewards himself for this cutback. Last, in October of the same year, he goes cold turkey, and gives up smoking. To celebrate, he posts a status on facebook, and all of his friends chime in congratulating him on this achievement.

Will there always be a chance of Dave also reverting back to the practice of smoking? Absolutely. However, when tempted to do so, the sense of accomplishment, the feelings of pride derived from the compliments of friends, and the knowledge that he would be letting down himself, as well as those who have stood in his corner, will serve as a deterrent to his making a move in this reverse order.

This is not to say that resolutions cannot be effective. However, I believe that in order for a resolution to remain effective over a period of time, the resolution must accompany a goal. For instance: Mike's goal is to save $10,000 during the year 2012. In keeping in line with his goal, Mike resolves on January 1st, to eliminate fast food, partying, and clubbing throughout the course of the year.

When paired together, this resolution, in conjunction with Mike's long-term goal, is much more likely to stick, than had he simply vowed to give up eating out, partying, and clubbing, just for the sake of discipline. Each month now, Mike will be able to take an inventory of his bank account, and he will enjoy the rewards of knowing that with each passing month, he is drawing one step closer to his goal.

So as we move into the year 2012, I would absolutely encourage each of you to stick with the resolutions that were made when the clock hit midnight. However, I would also encourage you to attach your resolutions to long term goals, so that you have something to look forward to, and so that you're not forced to feel as if you're living in bondage to the hype of New Year's Day.

"Most of us serve our ideals by fits and starts. The person who makes a success of living is one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That's dedication."-Cecil B. DeMille                       

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