A resolution is not a goal, and here’s the difference
There is only one New Year’s resolution you should make this year (or any year). Here it is:
This year I will respect the gift of my life by investing energy, focus, self-compassion and self-belief into each goal that I explore on my journey.
Change the words to suit you, but here’s why in substance this is the only resolution worth setting:
- A resolution is not a goal. A resolution is a commitment to yourself that you can keep forever, a goal is something that changes as your life does. So your resolution needs to allow for the changing nature of goals itself. Take your resolution seriously, give it the respect it deserves, and it will serve you all year long. Don’t reduce your resolution to a goal.
- You’ll set the wrong goal. Even if you treat your resolution as a goal, the goal you set January 1 will almost certainly be the wrong goal. To lose your Christmas weight — the goal you think you have — might require any of 50 other changes to succeed — stop emotional eating, manage your anger, clean your pantry, understand food labels, change your route home from work, simplify your diet, start a mindfulness practice, join a gym, etc. That should have been the real goal, because it’s the one that ends up changing your life. But because it’s very hard to know in advance which one does that, it’s very easy to set the wrong goal. Instead, your resolution should commit to the exploratory journey to find the right one.
- Goals change, mindset doesn’t. What’s more, as life changes, goals change. As they should. What should not change is your ability to stay in a “growth mindset,” which is characterized by a belief that every goal on the journey is really about learning and improvement, not about proving that you’re intrinsically great to begin with (which is evidence of a “fixed mindset”). Besides, people with a growth mindset just destroy the performance of those with a fixed mindset over time.
- Willpower burns hot and burns out. The goal you are 110% committed to on January 1 has burned through the emotional reserves of the brain by January 3. By January 7 you’re beating yourself up and by January 13 you’re back into your old habits, this time with more proof that you can’t change. The mistake was to rely on the emotion of the New Year (and willpower) to make the change. Almost never works.
- It’s about you, not the goal. This is the real myth of the New Year’s resolution. Your goals don’t make you who you are. You are worth every single ounce of care, love, respect, admiration and devotion that this universe can generate — whether you meet any of your goals or none of them — and if I was with you in person I would do everything I could to reflect that back to you. You are worth it. You are important. You are strong. You are smart. You are loving. You have nothing to fear. Goals or none, your resolution this year is about you and your commitment to the extraordinary miracle that you are, the profound force that you carry with you wherever you go. Let your resolution reflect that. And don’t worry, your goals will catch up.