Enough Already About Your New Year’s Resolutions

by Shana Montesol Johnson

I admit it.  I love New Year’s Resolutions. I love making resolutions, hearing about the ones friends have made, and telling them about mine.  Yet research shows that if I want to maximize my chances of accomplishing these goals, I’d better just shut up about them.

Check out why in this 3-minute video:

Conventional wisdom tells us that we should announce our goals from the rooftops, share them with our friends and colleagues, write about them on blogs.  Yet some researchers have found that when people talk about their goals with others, they’re less likely to achieve them. It’s because when we tell someone that we are going to do something big – say, run a marathon, land a great new international development job, or start a non-profit to bring clean water to poor communities – the praise and positive reaction we get from our audience gives us a part of the experience of having already accomplished these things.  (Psychologists call this “social reality.”)  And so we are less motivated to actually work toward these goals.

I have experienced this myself, related to launching this blog, no less. Last July I decided, after much conversation with my business coach, professional colleagues, and friends who blog that it was time to end my years of hiding from the internet and set up a website related to my coaching business.  Soon after I made this decision, I headed off to a 5-week home leave in the US, visiting various friends and relatives in the Midwest, California, and Washington, DC.  When asked what was new in my work as a coach, I readily replied that I had decided to start a blog.  To a person, everyone was supportive, excited, and positive.  “That’s great, Shana!” I heard numerous times.  Apparently the support was so nice, it was all I needed…and this blog remained a mere twinkle in my eye for the next 5 months!

Of course, as a career coach, I am not advising anyone to be silent about their goals.  Yet the way we talk about our goals can make a difference. Instead of simply announcing our plans and then basking in everyone’s support and advance admiration, we can:

  • Ask others to hold us accountable for doing the work required,
  • Ask people for specific assistance, and
  • Celebrate actual accomplishments and emphasize what remains to be done.

Ask others to hold us accountable for doing the work required

I told everyone, “I’m going to start a blog!” and then sat back and did nothing to make it happen for months on end.  It may have been more productive for me to say, “I plan to start a blog this fall, which means I’ve got a lot of work to do.  Can you check in with me 2 weeks from now to ask if I’ve come up with a list of potential blog post topics?”

Ask people for specific assistance

In addition to holding us accountable for doing the nitty-gritty work required, there are other ways people can help us. If you plan to run a marathon, ask your runner friends to join you on your next run.  If you’d like to land a great new international development job, ask your network to introduce you to contacts in specific development organizations you’re interested in.  If you aspire to start a non-profit to bring clean water to poor communities, let people know you would like to meet experts in the field.

Celebrate actual accomplishments and emphasize what remains to be done

Celebrating your progress at key milestones can help you work toward and meet your goals.  Just make sure that you celebrate after you’ve already accomplished something, rather than feeling good about your noble intentions in advance of actually doing anything about them.  And keep your eye on the ball – be clear about the tasks that remain to be done.

Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions for 2011?

Great!  Stop talking about them and get started working toward accomplishing them.  And if you’re looking for accountability, specific assistance, or celebration of a milestone, please share in the comments below.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }


Shana, so glad to find your blog. This was just what I needed. Hope you, Ky and he girls are all well.



Laura, thanks for your comment and for stopping by the blog! I’m glad you’re finding it helpful. Greetings to your family!


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