It’s almost New Year’s and naturally our thoughts and conversations turn to “New Year’s resolutions”. But have you ever thought about what a “resolution” is, vs. a “goal”? Are they the same or different, and why does it even matter?
A resolution is just a firm decision....to do (or stop doing) whatever. Usually we think of lifestyle changes, and in fairly general terms, like “I’m gonna ‘exercise more’, or ‘get in shape’, or ‘lose weight’, or ‘get my finances in order’”. Resolutions like this are easy to make, and easy to break. They’re so general that it can be pretty hard to tell whether you’re really sticking to them or not. They’re not specific, so they’re not measurable. Not being measurable also removes much of the motivation to keep a resolution – there’s not much of a sense of failure when you abandon a resolution.
A goal, on the other hand, is a different animal, that is, if you actually make goals that meet these criteria:
1. A goal has a measurable, numerically quantifiable, outcome.
2. A goal has a deadline date.
3. A goal has a detailed plan designed to make sure the goal is reached.
4. Most importantly, a goal has one or more SO THAT’s.
The real key is #4. Goals themselves generally won’t motivate you. What DOES motivate you is what happens because you reached that goal....what I call the SO THAT. The bigger the goal, the bigger the SO THAT.
“I want to lose 25 pounds by June 1 SO THAT I will not be embarrassed in a bathing suit on that cruise I’m taking.”
“I want to get in shape SO THAT I can run a 5K with my son in October and get off of my blood pressure medicine by Christmas SO THAT I can actually play with my grandkids.”
“I want to get on a budget, SO THAT I can pay off all my consumer debt by August 1, SO THAT I can complete my emergency fund by December 30, SO THAT I can start investing $1500/month into my 401(K), SO THAT I can have a 2 million dollar nest egg by age 60, SO THAT I can quit this job I hate, travel the world and spend time with my grandchildren.”
Your “SO THAT” might contain the other elements of your goal (“so that I can run a 5K in October”) or it might be more of an ultimate lifestyle improvement (“so that I can quit this job I hate”), but regardless, each goal needs to have at least one SO THAT that really motivates you. Because only then will you want it enough to decide what the measure of success really is, and what date it needs to occur by. Then when you have those in place, the plan itself becomes pretty easy....you break down the final goal into smaller milestones with their own dates (like that last financial goal I quoted above), and ultimately into a daily to-do list that is designed to get you to each milestone. If you reach each milestone, you will reach your goal.
And, to be fair, resolutions (as opposed to goals) might actually have a SO THAT as well, just not a big enough one to turn the resolution into a goal. And resolutions typically lack a quantifiable outcome and a deadline date. They might even have somewhat of a plan in place, but a plan that doesn’t break down the goal into smaller milestones and daily tasks is rarely followed.
Anyway, my encouragement to you for your money in 2019 is to set some big, hairy, audacious GOALS (also known as BHAGs). You can achieve far more than you think you can, far sooner than you think you can, if you can figure out your SO THAT’s. Let me help you identify and clarify all the components of your goals, and then let’s create the plan to make them happen.