The Difference Between Goals And Plans

And how knowing that will make a difference for your 2012 resolutions

Everyone hates New Years Resolutions, it seems, or if they don’t outright hate them, they feel discouraged by the prospect of yet another set of resolutions biting the dust around, oh say, March.

I think that comes from confusing the intent behind resolutions, goals, and plans.

How do we turn our dreams into reality without being too cynical or pessimistic to even start. (One sure way to fail, or just get nowhere, is to not even start! And isn’t getting nowhere just another way to set up for failure, anyway?)

Goals are general. We want to achieve something, reach a bar point or acquire something, or get to some life destination point. We set goals with those ideas in mind, and that is usually what we call our resolutions: I want to lose weight, get fit, or be more healthy in 2012. Those are examples of typical goals most of us have.

Or we might say “I want to have a productive business””, or garden, or “I want to make more money”. “I want to spend more time with family”, build my website popularity, change jobs, start school, …those are all goals. We have personal and professional goals and we are really hoping to see a difference in the coming year, or -more likely- make up for how we failed or came short the previous year.

But the reason so many of these goals bite the dust is because they just sit there without plans. Efforts are not plans… we throw efforts at our goals and our enthusiasm lasts for a time dependent on how much will power or focus we have, but rarely does it last throughout an entire year. And that means rarely do we see those goals to completion. Some people give up, others… jump on the hamster wheel for another round of aimless flailing.

Plans are the tools for making goals realities. They take the form of written notes, timetables, deadlines, schedule of actions, etc. They are specific and tied to either a set of accomplishments or a calender date (or both). Those tools are the feet for the goals actually getting somewhere, and this is where most people miss the boat. They don’t like the finality and specifics of plans. Plans make people feel tied to timetables and decisions, and that takes away some of the warm fuzzy feeling of the grandiose visions of how powerful their will is going to be to get their goal: be thin, be successful, be a better person, be smarter, whatever that goal looked like in their mind as they sat in an easy chair at the end of the (dreamstate) year. Envisioning is a powerful thing, but it is only daydreaming when not tied to real plans.

Plans organize and pace efforts. We all know of those well intended efforts that fill the gyms each January, and empty them by May. We get busy, we get lazy, we get distracted, and our efforts dissolve into days, then weeks, then months of little or no progress.

Ready to land on next year’s “hopes and dreams dump”.

But our plan and schedule of efforts, and plan to get back on track, as well as measurable watermarks of nearing the goal throughout the year create real progress.


What a New Year’s resolution really is: the combination of the visionary goal with the plan of action, backed by measurable efforts.

Those are the resolutions that will guide and focus the coming year and end with satisfaction that we moved forward with things that were important to us.

The brainstorming part of a the resolution process is what we start with each January First. What did we like or not like about our lives and purposes in the previous year? what would we like to see changed? What kind of person do we want to be? What relationships do we wish to cultivate? Character qualities? accomplishments??

As we brainstorm all the dreams and ideas, we then sift them into priorities, the into real plans, then into calender events which we perceive will move us forward to the goal point.

Are you ready to turn your wishes and hopes into resolutions? And your resolutions into reality?

2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Goals And Plans”

  1. Hello, ilona. Long time no see. I was digging around in my old blog, checking to see how many links were still working, and this one from a comment you left five and a half years ago is still active.

    You may be interested in the current article that got me to digging.

    It’s the first time I have encountered the name Csikszentmihalyi (thank goodness for copy and paste) since that other time. He’s still on the same track but seems more structured. Actually I’m pretty impressed and would no longer dismiss him by saying he plays a one-note tune.

    As usual you have a beautiful site. But you always did. For you new blog layouts were sort of like new hats. The content was good but the form sometimes even better.

    In my case I lost the old blog a couple years ago when I fell for a phishing scam and the Google bots wouldn’t let me back in. (I think the only people at Google work in offices. There sure aren’t any out on the cloud.) So I joined a group blog which has been my forum since. Come visit sometime, but brace yourself for what might be a political shock. It’s a renegade environment, perilously close to anarchy, supporting Occupy and all that.

    Speaking of which, I notice your book shelf has the works of Francis Schaeffer. You may or may not know of his son by the same name who became the antithesis of all his father and family stood for.

    I bid you and yours a Happy New Year, filled with blessings and happy surprises. I finally slid into retirement, having graduated to Medicare and Social Security, and in my post-retirement life have been employed as a non-medical care-giver for other old people through an agency. (I’m taking notes…)

  2. So good to hear from you… I did wonder where you had gone to on the web after losing access to your old blog. Thank you for the update on your activities and RL 🙂

    Yes, this blog is more of a pretty face since I lost the passion for politics as it is practiced nowadays. I toy with the idea of resurrecting it to its old form of long posts and strong opinions. But nothing is decided, still.

    I was aware of Frankie Schaeffer, and have my opinions of his present path. I do wonder what creates the vituperative reaction in the children of people such as Schaeffer. I still love his theology- no one breaks down some of the concepts as well as he does.

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