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MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Thu 02-Jan-14 12:24:25

Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions! Just don’t tell anyone what they are

Got plans to change your life for the better in 2014? Best keep them to yourself, advises MN blogger and HuffPo comedy editor Andrea Mann, in today's guest post.

What do you think? Does sharing your New Year's resolutions make success more likely - or lead to maximum self-loathing if you fail? Perhaps you're avoiding resolutions altogether? Let us know on the thread below.

Andrea Mann

You Know You're Over 40 When...

Posted on: Thu 02-Jan-14 12:24:25


Lead photo

New Year's resolutions - best to keep shtum?

So this is a little awkward.

I have great things planned for 2014. Oh, yes. At least two of them. At least two things I want to achieve; at least two things I am resolving – no, resolved – to do. So naturally when I was thinking about this post, I was all set to explain what those things are. Until the self-help book that’s been advising me how to actually do these things told me not to.

Literally. I just read this section in it:

"Be very selective in the things you choose to discuss about yourself with others. Develop the discipline of keeping your own counsel and being discreet about your life… Keep what’s heartfelt and important close to your chest. Live with dignity and preserve the mystery of who you are."

Now, anyone who has known me for most of my adult life will know that 'living with dignity' and 'preserving the mystery of who I am' have not been that high on my list of aims. Especially not that night of the office Christmas party 10 years ago when I drank one too many Sea Breezes, vomited, and went home in the wrong coat (in my defence, plenty of other people drank too many Sea Breezes and vomited that night too, and at least one other person went home in the wrong coat.)

These days, I hope I am a little more dignified and discreet; like some sort of Victorian lady spy. But with my track record, this piece of advice in Be Your Own Life Coach by Fiona Harrold (highly recommended if you too are resolving to make changes in 2014 but not tell anyone what they are) doesn’t come naturally. I know, however, that Harrold is right. Partly because she speaks enormous sense elsewhere in the book; and partly because this isn’t the first time I’ve heard discretion suggested as a course of action.

The more you fail to keep to the resolution you told everyone you were keeping, the further away the goal you told everyone you were aiming for is from your grasp, the more likely you are to give up on it. Because the fact that you told everyone about it just makes you feel even worse about your lack of achievement – and thus, of course, less likely to achieve it.

Because while one school of thought advises people to tell the world their intentions – to declare to friends/family/Facebook acquaintances their plans to write that novel/change career/reach level four on Pac-Man or whatever it is the kids are playing these days – on the understanding that this public declaration will somehow keep you on track, the reality is, of course, that it often doesn’t. In fact, according to the other school of thought, not only will it not keep you on track but it’s practically guaranteed to derail you (note to self: use more train metaphors). The more you fail to keep to the resolution you told everyone you were keeping, the further away the goal you told everyone you were aiming for is from your grasp, the more likely you are to give up on it. Because the fact that you told everyone about it just makes you feel even worse about your lack of achievement – and thus, of course, less likely to achieve it. It is, if you will, a vicious chicken and egg circle (note to self: Vicious Chicken And Egg Circle could be possible self-help book title).

Many experts such as Harrold, therefore, advise the opposite. And while there may be no harder task for those of us brought up, in the age of counselling and social media, to share our thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams - it makes good sense. Put it this way: the opposite has not worked for me. Too many times over recent years have I made bold, public declarations about my intentions and goals, only to fall flat on my face. By which, of course, I mean 'only to gradually talk about them less and be asked about them more infrequently and to change the topic more quickly whenever they come up until nobody asks me about them any more and I breathe a huge sigh of relief whilst also trying not to get subsumed by overwhelming feelings of disappointment in myself that border on self-hate'.

I know what you’re thinking: "You’re making a lot of fuss about not telling us that you plan to watch all five seasons of Breaking Bad in 2014, Andrea". And you’d be right. But that is one goal I feel I can share. The other, more important, ones (such as watching House Of Cards too)? Not so much. I will, of course, tell my absolute nearest and dearest, and anyone who’s actively involved in these plans (it seems only fair). But otherwise, I’m aiming to be as dignified and discreet as a Victorian lady spy who’s just been made a Dame and been given a particularly tough assignment behind enemy lines (where I landed by using my bloomers as a parachute). In fact, I’ve probably given too much away by telling you I’ve got any resolutions at all, haven’t I? Damn this spying malarkey. It’s not as easy as it looks.

By Andrea Mann

Twitter: @andreamann

Redoubtable Thu 02-Jan-14 14:01:34

Hear, hear.
I actually totally agree with this.
I heard about this before (possibly on a TED talk?) ; that sharing ones goals with others gives us a false sense of having achieved something already. And that we wrongly imagine that the public declaration will add impetus to our efforts.

There may even have been a study to that effect, where those who kept their aims private, were more successful than people who had advertised what they intended.

NumptyNameChange Thu 02-Jan-14 15:25:09

hmm i've seen the same advice with different reasons. apparently telling people somehow gives our brain the sense we've already done it - as in we have the idea and do the grand announcement and get the praise and encouragement and that's enough - it's rewarded and there's no impetus to actually do it. must be same research interpreted differently by two different writers.

it does make sense to me - it's almost as if the resolve and pats on the back for the resolve creates enough gratification that you don't actually need to put the work in and achieve it. don't tell people and crack on and do it instead of talking about it and get the reward through actually having done it.

NumptyNameChange Thu 02-Jan-14 15:26:03

redoubtable - i've a feeling i heard it from the lady who did the ted talk on vulnerability and a book i read by her.

Redoubtable Thu 02-Jan-14 17:38:32

Numpty....Brene Brown? I dont think it was her......

NumptyNameChange Fri 03-Jan-14 07:07:17

oh well she talked about it as well. don't tell anyone, do it and then tell them otherwise we get the big pat on the back for planning to do it and feel as if we've already done it and that'll do thanks cos i feel quite good now grin

guessing whoever it was you read it from got it from the same piece of research.

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