Review, Reflection, Resolutions or Goals?

There is something reassuring about a perceived clean slate: it’s that time of the year when we think ahead to what we would like to accomplish during the coming months and seasons. Traditionally, people set New Year’s resolutions. However, there are increasingly more views out there, which seem to be shunning Resolution Setting in favour of a Year Review/ Reflection and/or Goal Setting. So, this got me thinking, what’s the difference between them all and what role could each of these play in our personal progress? Here are a some of my bite-size thoughts:

The fundamental difference between resolutions and goals is that a resolution is a decision that you make to do or not to do something, and a goal is something that you aspire to achieve. These both refer to the future.

The difference between reviewing and reflecting is that a review is more of a physical process (reading/ analysing/ comparing), whereas a reflection is more of a thinking process. These both refer to the past.

Let’s consider one way of making good use of each of these tools for personal development:

Speaking from experience, I would say that to set any meaningful resolutions or goals, there needs to be a process of review and reflection first. This allows you to engage in the analysis of your achievements or short-comings in the past year, and in identification of what helped or hindered these.

To begin, I like to review any goals that I set myself for the different areas of my life. I base my areas on Robin Sharma’s ‘8 Forms of Wealth’, with some adaptations. So I have goals for my Mental State, Physical State, Relationships, Career & Impact, Financial Health, Spiritual Life, Personal Development and Adventure. I have a look at each area and highlight the goals or sub-goals that I have achieved. I also look at which goals or sub-goals I didn’t achieve. I review whether there were any goals that were too ambitious or not ambitious enough; this helps me when I come to set the pitch of any new goals.

Now the reflection kicks in: I think about which habits, actions or relationships supported my successes and achievements. I equally think about where I fell short of my intentions and what stopped me from achieving them. I write these down.

Cue the resolutions: I resolve to keep or introduce certain habits and do more of what helps me to be healthy, energetic and productive. I also then resolve to do less of, completely stop or change other things that I have identified as barriers to my progress. For example, mobile phone scrolling has been a big hinderance for me during the past year, so I am resolving to use an app timer to help me mange this in the future.

Once I have my review, reflection and resolutions in place, they serve as fuel for my goal setting for the different areas of my life. This is because I am able to approach setting new goals with more clarity around what I want achieve and what powers me.

I’m still in the process of setting my goals for 2022, even though 1st January has now passed; I need them to be right, clear and specific, rather than rushed. I will address my approach to goal setting another time, but in a nutshell- set goals that are aspirational, motivating and meaningful to you and your vision.

I guess the point I’m making is that Review, Reflection, Resolutions and Goal Setting can really work together, rather than in competition with each other. I don’t see them as discrete, or as being in or out of fashion- but rather as timeless, very useful, mutually supportive tools for the learning of life lessons and for creating a clear sense of direction.

And after all, January 1st is not the only ‘clean slate’ we can have: this is just a perception. We can decide to have a clean slate any hour of any day- whenever we want. So if you haven’t got around to thinking about what you want out of 2022, don’t worry at all. You haven’t missed the boat, you are just in the process of packing your bags. 😎🚢

Photo by Samuel Theo Manat Silitonga on

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