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Resolutions vs. Goals: which one works better?

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“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis

Photo by Gijs Coolen on Unsplash

The definition of a resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something. The definition of a goal is an aim or desired result. One is rigid, the other has more flexibility. Of course this is all semantics, but between the two, which works better for a human brain?



As mentioned above, the idea of a resolution is rigid. It requires a firm decision to, at a specified point in time, either start or stop doing something.  

For example, a person could decide that on January 1st they will quit smoking, or not eat sugar, or start making their bed every morning.

While we all try at resolutions with the best of intentions, a lack of knowledge of how the mind works can present problems. When the mind isn’t equipped for the change, failure is just about guaranteed.



Goals offer a bit more flexibility. As mentioned above, a goal is defined as an aim or desired result. 

When we think about a goal, it’s not cut and dry like a resolution is. A goal gives us the luxury of time, which can be both good and bad. That’s why it’s important to create a deadline for a goal, otherwise it can easily just keep getting pushed out. 

It can turn into the carrot on the stick out in front of the horse, the object of desire that can never be obtained. (Well, maybe not never.)


Which is better?

Both resolutions and goals are mental constructs. The way we think about each one creates a different emotional experience in the body.

Resolving to start or stop doing something that you’ve been wanting to change can be motivating upon first glance, but once you actually try to start or stop the thing, you suddenly have to contend with your reactive, or programmed brain, that already has a formed habit. And if you break the resolution just once, disappointment ensues and you’re no longer motivated. 

The issue with resolutions is that you’re either trying to create a new habit that doesn’t even exist in your brain yet (you don’t have the neural networks to support it), or you’re trying to break a habit that your brain is VERY used to using (part of an active neural network).

If you’ve had difficulty keeping resolutions in the past, here’s my take:

Take the best of what goals have to offer, time, and consider practicing your resolution for a little while. I know this seems to work against everything a resolution stands for, but if resolutions aren’t your strong point, maybe you should redefine how a resolution works for you.  

Give yourself at least a few weeks, if not a few months, of practice with your resolution. Give your brain time to get used to the idea. Introducing a new idea from your active brain into your reactive brain (watch this video for an explanation) can be like introducing a new cat into your house that already has a feline in it. Time is needed for all parties involved to adjust.


The bottom line

Resolutions don’t have to freak you out. If you’ve failed at them in the past, redefine how you do resolutions. Usually the only reason we make resolutions is because we think other people think we should, or we think that what we resolve to do will make us more worthy of humanity.

Poppycock. If you resolve to change something in your life for your own well being, or to see just what the heck you’re capable of? Good on you. Just give your brain the grace period to actually get on board with the change.


Work with me

So you want to make a change, but you’re not quite sure how to get there. This is what I teach. Working with me you’ll define where you are now, where you want to be, and we’ll create the path to get you there, while actually changing your brain to support your new way of being.

Book a complimentary consultation with me to start exploring the possibilities.

Or, sign up for my email list for twice weekly coaching straight to your inbox.

Or heck, do both!