What’s the Difference Between Goals and Resolutions?

difference between goals and resolutions

What’s the Difference Between Goals and Resolutions?

In this month’s Goals, Habits, and Resolutions Challenge, our focus will be on making improvements to your life. In order to be successful with real life change, setting and following through with goals requires dedication and work. It’s important for us to take some time right now to discuss the meaning of two key words: goals and resolutions. While they are often used interchangeably, the fact is that these terms have some key and subtle differences. I’d like to address the difference between goals and resolutions before we get further along in our challenge.


A goal is your target. It’s the desired outcome that you hope to attain. Goals have a definite and precise endpoint. You’ll know when you’ve achieved your goal. You can place a timeframe on them. There are both short-term and long-term goals you set for yourself. Goals can also fall into various categories among the different aspects of your life. For example, you can set career, relationship, health, or personal goals.


When it comes to resolutions, the term can be used in a number of ways across varying contexts. For our purposes, we’ll be looking at personal resolutions that have to do with the trajectory we’d like to take with our lives. A resolution is a promise to yourself, and it’s something that’s usually more open-ended than a specific goal. Making a resolution usually entails altering some aspect of your life, such as eating healthier, focusing on loved ones more, or managing your finances better.

How They’re Related

These two terms actually go hand-in-hand. That’s why they’re so often referenced together. Your resolutions are made up of goals. The resolution is the overarching theme or the implied direction you wish to take with your life. The goals are the activities that fall within the theme or the specific steps to take you to that place.

If you resolve to lose weight or eat healthier, which is probably the most common New Year’s Resolution, you need to set goals for how you will accomplish such a wish. Without goals, resolutions often go unmet. You’ve likely experienced setting a resolution, only to have it fall flat and be left behind within a month or less. That’s natural and lies within the realm of normal human behavior. We attend to what’s immediately in front of us. If you instead, set specific goals and check in with them on a regular basis it will help keep them at the forefront of your mind, making those resolutions more likely to become a reality.

Some goals involve establishing a new habit that will help you reach your goal. So, we will also address how habits can help you reach your goals.

Essentially, a resolution is something you will constantly be working toward, while a goal is specific and finite. Resolutions are made up of goals. While there is a difference between goals and resolutions, they are relevant and intertwined. We’ll be focusing on both as we proceed along our challenge.