Should I tell people about my New Year's resolution?

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You bet! Research demonstrates that a public commitment is more effective than a private declaration in achieving your resolution.

A wonderful example of how a public commitment can lead to prolonged effort is found in a famous social psychological experiment conducted in the mid 1950s. Drs. Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard asked college students to estimate privately the length of lines shown to them. Then, some of the students were asked to share publicly their estimation, some were instructed to write their judgments down knowing their estimations would be erased before anyone else saw them, and still a third group was asked to keep their estimations to themselves. All of the students were then shown that their initial estimates of the line length were wrong. What happened? The students who publicly committed refused to admit they were wrong; going public had made them far more resolute and persistent.

But what if you fail? I can hear you protesting already. “What!? If I tell everyone my resolution and fail, then I’ll be embarrassed!” Going public is a double-edged sword: it increases your commitment but also ups the risk.

Don’t go public if you are not prepared; better yet, don’t jump into a resolution until you are ready. But when you are ready, it’s time to share your resolution with others. That means informing people in your life -- your friends, family members, and close work colleagues -- and putting your resolutions on display.

Going public tends to be effective, and even the economists say so: people who make their resolutions public are far more likely to fulfill them. It increases the price of failure. That price can refer to the psychic cost of failing (how badly you’ll feel about yourself), or the social-embarrassment cost of failing (how badly everyone else will make you feel). Going public also increases accountability.

When you are prepared to take on the new year with a meaningful resolution, say it loud and proud.

Continue Learning about Healthy Resolutions

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.