Why Goals are Better than Resolutions

2016 like most years had its ups and downs for me. But as I’ve reflected on it I have to say it was overwhelmingly a good year. One of the biggest reasons was that I was more intentional than I have been in the past.

In fact for the first time ever I set specific goals for the year that helped me live with more of a sense of purpose and propelled me forward in important areas of my life more than at any time in the past. I didn’t accomplish them all to the degree that I hoped but I certainly did a lot more than I would have without setting them at all.

Setting and achieving goals gives us a huge sense of accomplishment and also helps us live with more intention and purpose. One of my other goals for 2016 was to run a half marathon. I actually ended up running two but this picture is from the finish of the first one.

At this time of year most people are talking about resolutions not goals. I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions. They seem too vague for me, like throwing something at the wall and hoping it sticks without any real plan for keeping it up there.

I read somewhere recently that one of the most popular resolutions for 2017 is to “be a better person.” That’s a fantastic aspiration but it can mean so many different things and how do you even know if you’ve accomplished it?

Goals on the other hand are much more concrete and provide a specific pathway for achievement.

Here are the key aspects of the goal setting and achievement process that I used this year. Lots of credit goes to Michael Hyatt and his Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting post and goal setting webinar that I used to guide much of my process. I hope this is helpful and encouraging to you as you set your own goals for 2017.

Set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound. One of my goals for 2016 was to post on this blog twice a month. That goal fits the SMART criteria instead of something like “write more” which is much more vague.

Only set a few – Michael recommends only setting 5-7 goals because it is difficult to focus on more than that. Keeping our number of goals small forces us to prioritize the ones that are most important and let go of the ones that are not as significant. This means that probably have to stop doing some things in order to focus on what matters most to us.

Have an action plan – A huge key to accomplishing goals is breaking them down into bite-sized steps otherwise it is easy to get overwhelmed and not start at all. You may not know all the steps required to accomplish your goal but you need to have at least the first couple of steps. From there the rest of the steps often make themselves clear. A couple of my action steps for blogging were to set up a publishing schedule (I decided on the first and third Monday of the month) and setting specific times each week to write.

Review them regularly – Reviewing goals regularly keeps them in the forefront of our mind making us much more likely to stay focused on them. I have a monthly reminder set on my calendar to review my goals and also a spreadsheet where I track my monthly progress.

Don’t expect perfection – One of my favorite podcasters, Lewis Howes, says

Don’t let your ideal of having to be perfect hold you back from being great. If you want to be great you must be willing to get messy.

Wanting things to be perfect has often kept me from starting at all or if I did start, it quickly derailed me. There were many times this year that I wasn’t completely satisfied with a blog post but I published it anyway. Even though I didn’t always think the post was amazing, it usually helped and encouraged someone anyway. That and the sense of accomplishment I got from completing the task helped keep me going.

Know your why – This may be the most important aspect of all. At some point as you pursue your goals you’re going to get discouraged or tired or both. If you don’t know why you set the goal in the first place you’re sure to quit.

Knowing why the goal is important is a huge key to maintaining motivation. My why for posting on my blog twice a month was to become a better writer and communicator, to have a place to process my experiences, to help and encourage others, to learn more and to become a better critical thinker.

I just finished setting my goals for 2017. Fueled with the confidence and energy that came from accomplishing most of my goals from 2016 I’m aiming even higher and pushing myself harder in 2017. I hope you’ll do the same and at the end of this year we’ll be able to look back with gratitude and excitement for all that we were able to achieve!