Goals v. Resolutions

As students, every day of school is about working toward that long-awaited degree we hope will propel us into a better future. Yet as we continually are working toward the future, it’s not uncommon to hear our peers and ourselves mention how little they want to think about the future. Live in the present, we say.

And yet, once a year, alongside the rest of today’s culture, most of us take time to consider at least what we’d like the next 365 days to look like. New Year’s resolutions have been around for longer than any of us can remember, but I’ve noticed a shift recently. Instead of making resolutions we have started setting goals.

I can remember growing up and never making a resolution because my dad thought they were ridiculous. While this may be overgeneralized, there are plenty of fantastic resolutions out there—it’s true that January is hit hard with millions of well-meaning people who all start making excuses for that piece of chocolate on Valentine’s Day or Easter. Resolutions have gotten bad raps from all the negative connotations associated with them, created by a lot of the same people who despise them.

So what is the difference between making a resolution and setting a goal? While their meanings can change based on how people define them, generally it seems that resolutions involve regularly starting—or stopping—a certain behavior. A goal, however, doesn’t have to start being attained and reached right from the get go.

Having goals changes the way we approach the new year because goals are something that are worked toward gradually, giving lots of time and grace for the weeks or months that go by without much, or any, progress made toward that goal. A resolution involves more counting of the days and keeping strict schedules. Goals take some planning, but there is no pass/fail associated with the behavior and how we spend our individual days. Resolutions, being linked with the New Year, feel like they also should be new, exceptional and creative, because who are we kidding? We’re more interested in people’s reactions when we tell them about our incredibly innovative resolutions than the actual drudgework itself.

But the goals you pick can even be ones that you’ve already had or a sub-goal to a larger dream you have for your life. Use the New Year to remind yourself what you’ve already been doing and keep at it, instead of setting unrealistic expectations for yourself.

Props if you’re a stickler who has succeeded with your 2014 resolution, and good luck on this year’s. If, however, you are among the many who have given up, take some time and write down goals you already have. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in the middle of January, or if you get to it at the end of the semester, or on your birthday; realize your goals, record them, and you can see the progress as you move along. No rush.


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