Resolutions or Goals?

What’s the difference?

The beginning of a fresh New Year is always an excellent time to review your progress during the past year and decide what you would like to accomplish in the year ahead. Many people decide to make challenging resolutions in order to stay on track towards a better version of themselves. Meanwhile, many of us are burnt out on New Year Resolutions, having tried and failed to keep them on multiple occasions. We have all seen the statistics about the likelihood of adhering to a New Year’s Resolutions and frankly, they’re not very encouraging.

I never really stopped to consider the difference between the meaning and application of the words goal and resolution until I recently read “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin. In the book, Rubin sets monthly resolutions for a whole year in order to achieve greater happiness in her everyday life. Each month is dedicated to a unique topic, such as finances, marriage, parenting, spirituality, and trying new things.

Rubin points out that she specifically choose to pursue resolutions, because resolutions are things one can continually work towards without ever really finishing. For example, her resolutions to “act the way I want to feel” may have been specific to February’s focus, but she continued to push herself to do so for the entire rest of the year.

Resolution: eat less sugar this year!
Resolution: eat less sugar this year!

Rubin argues that goals have finite action steps and a finite ending point. A goal such as running a marathon is easily measurable and quantifiable. On the other hand, a goal such as giving others gold stars and compliments has no deadline, but instead can be monitored and pursued daily, potentially forever!

For the Happiness Project, Rubin selected a handful of specific resolutions to focus on each month and added the resolutions from the previous months as well. She tracked her progress using a resolutions chart, grading herself how well she completed various resolutions such as “observe the evening tidy up” and “act how I want to feel”. In this context, resolutions have no due date, there is no end destination to run towards and arrive to. Goals have a time bound completion date and there is an end destination which is always in site.

I think that both goals and resolutions have the power to change your life if identified and used correctly.

Resolutions are particularly helpful for specific behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs you’d like to change or improve. Goals are particuarly helpful for specific performance based outcomes you’d like to achieve.

The key to success with either is tracking and monitorin your progress on a regular basis. Daily check ins are best to keep you accountable and on track.

Additionally, it is important to be speficic whether you are setting resolutions or goals. But if you are setting goals try to follow the S.M.A.R.T goals acronym and make your goal specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. To get you started, I’ve listed 3 examples of both resolutions and goals. Please share your resolution and goal ideas in the comments below!


Examples of Resolutions:

1) Wear sunscreen every day.

2) Use to track my budget and spending.

3) Remember to cut people slack.


Examples of Goals:

1) Run the San Diego half marathon on Otober 20 in under 2 hours.

2) Put 5,000 into my savings account my December 31.

3) Lose 10 pounds and 2 inches from my waist by April 20.


Hopefully these examples will get you thinking about your own resolutions and goals for this year and for your daily life. For more inspiration, check out some of my favorite websites and tools for goals setting…

For finances, and

For health and wellness,

For fitness and exercise, and

For nutrition tracking,

For career,


Which internet sites, bloggers, or authors inspire you to set and work towards your goals? Share your personal goal setting resources in the comments below.

Goal: try every variety of Hungarian wine by May 31, 2016!
Goal: try every variety of Hungarian wine by May 31, 2016! 😉

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