Should You Keep Your Resolutions From Certain People?

You’ve made your New Year’s resolutions. (e.g., “I’m going to exercise more, eat healthier, get more organized,” etc.)

Maybe you’ve even gotten started on them. (Good for you,…you early bird!).

And you think you’ve gotten all you need from blogposts on how to make sure you actually follow through on the changes you’d like to see in 2011.

So far, so good.  But there’s one last question to answer…

Should I Keep My Resolutions From Certain People?

The sad, but very helpful, answer to this infrequently asked question is ABSOLUTELY! Those around you, whether family, friends, co-workers, store clerks or acquaintances, can have either a strong motivating or de-motivating effect on you and, as such, they can either support your resolutions or quite frankly, they can kill your drive to succeed.

So, here’s a quick and easy way of deciding who to put on the short list of “resolution-supporters” (those you will WANT to talk to) vs. “resolution-killers” (those you will NOT want to talk to about your resolutions).

Keep in mind, however, that only you can know for sure who can help vs. hurt your progress toward fulfilling your resolutions.  That said, tread lightly and feel people out before you get into a conversation about how, for example, you couldn’t get to the gym today because of all the snow that wasn’t plowed.  That way you can see if they’re a “resolution-killer” or “resolution-supporter”.


If you start talking to someone about your resolution and they say any one of the following things, they are a “Resolution-Killer” (each is followed by an explanation of why it is NOT supportive)…

1)      “That’s great!  You’ve really needed to do that for a while, right?”

(Who are they to tell you what you’ve needed to do?  Even if this is your doctor or boss telling you this, people are much more likely to change for their OWN good reasons vs. a “need” brought up by someone else, even if they are an expert…or your boss.  We all resist being forcefully told what we “need” or “have to” do)

2)      “You don’t need to do that! You’re fine.” (i.e., You look fine, you exercise enough, you eat healthy enough)

(This is not supportive because it dismisses your drive and determination, and the person might only be saying it to be polite)

3)      “Oh, I wish I could do that!”

(Makes you feel bad and perhaps even like you don’t deserve to succeed)

4)      “Good for you!” and nothing else

(Non-specific, perhaps fake, praise – not so motivating or supportive)

5)      “You’ve wanted to do that for years!”

(A backhanded compliment that only reminds you of past failures)

6)      “How long do you think you can keep that up?”

(Focuses you on things that will trip you up vs. keep you going.  Here, the person you’re talking to is almost predicting failure at some point)

7)      “Why weren’t you able to do this last year?”

(Again, focuses you on why you weren’t able to do it in the past vs. why you are now able to.  Also, it’s pretty critical)

8)      “You’re so lucky you’re disciplined.”

(Underlying message: It’s not about your motivation and effort – it’s about luck)

9)      “Well, after all, you’ve got the ‘skinny-‘, ‘exercise-’ or ‘organized-‘ gene.”

(You can add the word “gene” to virtually any positive attribute and you have the same effect – they’re taking the credit away from you – it’s inborn, is what they’re saying)

10)  “It’s great you’ve made the goal easier this year.”

(Another backhanded compliment if I’ve ever heard one – not motivating or supportive)

11)  “Can I do it with you?  C’mon please!  We’ll do it together.”

(This person may be well-meaning, but his/her desire to get by on your “motivational coat-tails” is not going to work.  He/she will drain the motivation right out of you)

12)  “What are you going to do when you’re tempted to cheat on your resolution?” (Much like #6 above, this person is focusing you too much on what’s going to make you slip vs. what will keep your motivation high)

BOTTOM LINE: Do NOT talk to these people about your resolutions.

If, on the other hand, you start talking to someone about your resolution and they say any one of the following things, they are a “Resolution-Supporter” (again, each is followed by an explanation of why the response is supportive)…

1)      “I’m really happy for you.  I know how important this is to you.”

(This response is about genuine praise and your wants – and not about the other person’s jealousy.  It also makes you think about your motives for the positive change you’re trying to make.  It’s also helpful because it focuses you on the present vs. the past (“…how important this IS [vs. HAS been] to you” – ALL GOOD)

2)      “Good for you.  What made you decide to work on that?”

(Praise plus a question, which signals genuine interest – a good question at that.  It focuses you on the much more motivating reasons why you WANT to work on your resolution vs. why you were not able to do so in the past)

3)      “Sounds like that’s important to you.”

(Reinforces the motives behind the positive change vs. past failures or future temptations to cheat on your resolution)

4)      “Seems as if you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this.”

Reinforces the motives behind the positive change vs. past failures or future temptations to cheat on your resolution)

5)       “How are you going to start?” or “What’s your next or first step?“

(Shows interest and focuses you on a specific plan for the first and easier part of the process vs. asking about the end result, which would really put the pressure on)

6)      “Your plan sounds really doable.”

(Praising the plan is almost as helpful as praising the drive behind the plan)

7)      “Imagine how you’ll feel when you start accomplishing your goals.  What will feel good about that?”

(Focuses you on the reward, but not the reward you get when you do the WHOLE thing, but the reward you’ll get soon, “…when you start accomplishing your goals”.  Short-term rewards work much better than those that are long-term)

8)      “How ready are you to start?

(This is motivating because it doesn’t assume that simply because it’s the 5th of January that you will immediately start work on your resolutions.  By the way, taking some of the pressure off actually increases the chances that you will be successful [the “acceptance paradox” – a subject for a future blogpost, I’m sure].  This response is good because it suggests there is a range of readiness vs. a yes/no or forced choice.  When people are aware of this range, it’s much easier to see even small increases in motivational readiness to start work on a goal, which in turn makes actually starting the work more likely)

9)      “What makes you that ready?” And NEVER, “Why aren’t you more ready?”

(Reinforces the motives behind your desire to keep your resolution)

10)  “I’m impressed.” Or “You’ve inspired me.”

(Genuine praise)

11)  If you want, you can tell me how you did next year, but only if you want.”

(This is a true “buddy” in the process, but only if YOU choose him/her.  Freedom of choice is one of THE most motivating things [see Dan Pink’s book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” at])

12)  “I’ll be rooting for you, no matter how far you get.”

(Clear support and permission to only get so far with your resolution, which reduces pressure – another paradox of motivation)

BOTTOM LINE: DO talk to these people about your resolutions.

Here’s to your success in finding the right team of resolution-supporters and to getting as far as you can with your 2011 resolutions.  Remember, there’s always next year!!

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