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New Year’s Resolutions: friend or foe?
A previous Donders Wonders post explained how this “yearly tradition” brings forth hope and challenges. On the one hand, announcing a new year’s resolution has become a social custom and can bring up a sense of reward. On the other hand, people often end up setting too many goals, some of which are never crossed off the list. Sometimes people simply enjoy the idea of achieving a goal instead of taking actions in order to do so.
Nevertheless, let’s say you have created a list of resolutions and you are ready to go for it. What is also intriguing is whether sharing your resolution with a friend can help achieving that resolution.
The power and downside of sharing resolutions
Assuming you already have a resolutions list, you might hesitate whether to keep it to yourself or to share with friends. The thought that you might not achieve your goals and become embarrassed comes into conflict with the thoughts that you might succeed and feel validated. There is absolute power in making your resolutions public: your goals become clearer, and you are encouraged by the expectations from your boss, colleagues, or your friends. Your accountability person might take the responsibility of checking up on you regularly and reminding you when you get distracted from your goal.
In contrast, making your resolutions public may actually hurt your chances of success. What you shared is actually just a vision, the thought of finishing, not necessarily the actions needed to achieve your goal: there is an absolute knowing and doing gap between your thoughts and actions. An interesting TED talk also mentioned the downside of announcing your resolutions: after you share your goal, your brain tricks you into believing you’ve accomplished the goal. The feelings that you have already come a bit closer to your goals might decrease your motivation level. To maintain that motivation, you’d better keep your mouth shut.
Make your individual choice
Before you put up your phone and post your New Year’s resolution, ask yourself a few questions.
- Are you intrinsically motivated? If you are intrinsically motivated by the activity itself, you might not need additional external force since you enjoy every moment with the activity.
- Are you worried that you may be judged? You prefer to keep your goal to yourself because you don’t like the idea that you might be scrutinized with every step you made or that you may be judged if you fail to accomplish the goal.
- Does your goal require mutual effort? If your goal involves a second person (e.g., a better relationship), make sure the person knows, so that you can work towards the same direction and share accountability.
Having a goal is fantastic, especially when we hope to seek affirmation from ourselves and from friends in the brand-new beginning of the year. To ensure a higher chance of making each one of them come true when the next year comes, ask yourself whether you are equally willing to announce your resolutions as well as to announce the hard work you will do.