Set Goals, Not Resolutions

Be it for each New Year or your KPI with your boss, we are fond of setting resolutions. “I will do this and this task by this and this time,” you tell yourself with conviction. You write out a plan, you fill your calendar with notes and reminders, and you tell yourself you’ll never waver.

Invariably, the end-game seems to be a burnt-out, self-hating mess, no closer to getting the results you wanted than you were when you started out. Why, you wonder, can’t I stick to my resolutions? Am I lazy, uncoordinated, lacking in self-discipline?

The good news is, the answer to that is a definitive “No”.

Look at the dictionary definition of the word “resolution”: res·o·lu·tion, (noun) 1. a firm decision to do or not to do something; 2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter.

Just that “firm decision” can already be intimidating. It implants in our subconscious the idea that this is a do-or-die matter, and with that impression comes fear and pressure to perform. Hence, it’s no wonder some of us find ourselves running away from this guillotine of “practice-or-perish” hanging over our heads.

Instead, we recommend you set goals for yourself. After all, a goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result; the destination of a journey”. That shift in perspective is vital: it removes the “succeed or fail” element and instead prizes the path to get somewhere.

If you set a resolution, every day will be a battle to uphold that resolution. But if you set a goal, every day will be a journey toward that goal, with ups and downs, good days and bad days.

So rather than making call after call to meet your sales target, you now have the space to look more broadly. Maybe you can practice your sales pitch, or ask a senior colleague for tips and good contacts? The latter may not net you the exact numbers, but it will make you better at your job in the long run – thanks to the space goal-setting opens up in our minds.

Come the end of your performance period, you’ll be able to look back and think about the progress you made toward your goal and be proud of the work you’ve put in, instead of evaluating whether you did or did not uphold your resolution.

But when setting up your goals, be careful to not go too far in the other direction and end up with only vague ideas. Dr Brandon Koh, a lecturer in the human resource management programme at SUSS, said: “”Effective goals are moderately challenging, have specific targets and action plans, and are congruent with one’s beliefs and personal identity.”

“If a goal involves personal change or is particularly difficult, it is important to break it into multiple short-term goals and identify avenues to receive feedback.”

So in your next discussion with your boss, or as you face your diary and think of what you want to write, think in terms of goals – and resolve to get there someday, somehow!

Image from freepik