Goal or Promise? Which is more Powerful?

imageI was watching a video on iLearningGlobal.tv. Bill Bartmann, one of the lecturers on iLearningGlobal was discussing the difference between a goal and a promise. He mentioned a study at Yale Medical School that where 70% of the people who set goals do not meet them but 98% of the people who set promises to themselves meet the promise.

So what is the difference between a goal and a promise?

A promised is defined as a declaration that something will or will not be done. A goal is defined as the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.

Is a promise a specific outcome whereas a goal is result? It seems the person making the promise has more at stake than the person setting a goal. Is the word goal so over used that the mind (both conscious and subconscious) dismisses it as a trite overused phase that has no negative consequences if it is not achieved. Is the mind saying that you almost never meet your goals so why would this be any different? Or is a promise a more serious commitment to yourself and others? Is there more at stake personally and emotionally if you renege on a promise?

I do not make promises lightly. I would suggest that is one of the reasons they work. A promise is far more personal than a goal. A goal is usually given to us by an external source: manager, customer, market, etc. Where as a promise is personal, only we can make it and only we can break it. Because I do not make promises easily, I will think long and hard before I make a promise. I set goals all the time. I do not always reach my goals. When I make a promise I will move heaven and earth to make the promise happen.

One promise I made to myself is that I would not be late for a meetings, dates, parties, or any commitment I make. I see being on time as a sign of respect and caring for the people I am meeting. If for any reason I cannot make a commitment (or I am going to be late), I will call so they are not waiting. I can think of two times I was late in the last 20 years. I can think of only one meeting I missed because I missed read by calendar.

After listening to Bartmann, maybe I should set fewer goals and make more promises?


What do you think? Is making a promise more serious than setting a goal? If so, why?

About the Author: Ron Finklestein is an author and success coach.  His company, AKRIS works with entrepreneurs and business owners who want to build their business and balance their life.  Ron is called “Your Small Business Success Expert” by his clients because of his passion for their success and his knowledge of business.