At this point, many people in my life have realized that I’m quite obsessed with goals.

Last New Year’s, a friend of mine asked me to lead a goal-setting session with some of her friends so we could all start the year right. She thought what with my love of goals it would be a good fit, and it was! We all had a blast and the group got together this year even though I wasn’t around to goal set again. (I was so proud when I found out.)

At that session, I learned a lot about how I set goals and the things I think are obvious that are really only obvious in my mind and not to other people. One of the biggest lessons was the difference between a goal, a habit, and a task.

Many of the things the group was asking about adding as a goal, were really tasks or habits, and I found myself knowing the difference but not being able to express it properly. This blog post is an attempt to properly define these things outside of my own head.

I’d love to hear from you to see if these definitions resonate with you or what I should edit. Let’s dive in!

The Difference Between A Goal, A Habit, and A Task

A Goal…

Works towards a result.

Something you have achieved thanks to your efforts. I think of it as a big thing to work towards that eventually you’ll achieve it. In my mind, goals should be specific with a set timeline, like “I will do X by X.”

Here’s exactly how I set goals if you want to learn more.

One of my current goals is to compete in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament this year before July.

A Task…

Is something to be done.

Tasks aren’t long-term, they’re small, short, things that I personally add to Todoist and check off once they’re completed. I don’t usually feel like they’re an achievement, they are a part of my workflow.

Tasks are things like “buy groceries” or “record a podcast episode.”

A set of tasks might achieve a goal, but tasks aren’t goals.

A Habit…

Is the way you live your life. It’s a set practice you do regularly.

Many of the habits I’m trying to cultivate include meditating in the mornings and drinking enough water throughout the day. The habits I currently have are things like reading before bed and stretching first thing in the morning.

How To Turn a Habit You Want to Cultivate Into a Goal

This was probably the most difficult one to differentiate from a goal for the group I was working with.

Many of the people there wanted to set goals like “do yoga every morning.” And while I love that idea, it is more of a habit that you want to cultivate as it isn’t specific and there’s no set timeline.

So to make it a goal, it has to be more specific, for instance, “Do yoga 25 mornings this month.”

What About Resolutions?

I can only think of one year in my life when I tried to set a resolution. I was in high school and I think my resolution lasted a week. I’ve never taken part in resolution setting since then and the practice really mystifies me since I’m such a fan of goals and habits.

A resolution to me seems like something that you want to either start or stop doing all of the sudden, with nothing time constrained or specific to get you there except your own willpower. While I like the idea in practice, and it may work for some people, it has never worked for me or anyone I’ve talked to about this. I prefer to set goals or create new habits rather than set resolutions.

Goal setting has really changed my life for the better. It helped me grow and advance in University towards a career that I now love. I hope that goal setting can be similarly powerful for you.

I’d love to hear your experience with goals, tasks, and habits, and what you think of the definitions! Feel free to leave a comment or send me a tweet.

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