New Year's resolution? Keep it private

self-deception-new-years-resolutions A new year is here. Have you made a resolution to change your behaviour? Are you trying to be more of who you see yourself as - becoming more 'you'? Or perhaps you have resolved to do something different - a distinct change away from what you have been, to take a step towards becoming something else, someone else. Either way, it seems as though a public declaration of your intentions may end up short-circuiting or sabotaging your very best efforts to change.

Resolutions aren't for everyone - not at all. But for those that make them, many do not manage to stick to them, despite making public affirmation of their intentions. Why does this happen?

Part of the answer seems to lie in the phenomenon that the act of announcing what you aim to do to friends and family–and hearing their approval–provides similar satisfaction to achieving the goal, giving you a “premature sense of completeness.” If someone else take's notice of identity-related behavioural intentions we announce publicly, we seem to translate these intentions into actions less effectively than if our public announcements had been ignored. The mere act of having our intentions noticed seems to change how we act. Moreover, when other people take notice of our identity-related behavioral intention, this seems to give us a premature sense of possessing the aspired-to identity. And if our self-satisfaction gauge is already half-full before we start, the motivation to work hard is depleted. You're already reaping the benefits of the change just by announcing it, so you've less motivation to actually go ahead and enact it.

So, if you've made a resolution and haven't yet talked about it to others, you might want to continue keeping it under your hat. But, if you have already told others, all is not lost. Have a think about how you're doing with your new resolution. Has your motivation to complete been drained away because you're feeling satisfied with having told lots of people what you are going to do? Perhaps sharing the steps you are going to take to reach your goal might act as a spur to moving along the path towards attaining the change you want to achieve.

If you're still chewing the whole resolution thing over, here's a few quick tips:

  • Just pick one resolution. More than that is too hard.
  • Break the goal into steps. Have a plan.
  • Reward yourself for progress. But only when you make progress. Define what progress looks like before you start.
  • Understand that you may screw up. Keep at it.