Farrar's Faucet: A psychologist’s candid, productive and often humorous take on principled business behavior and better business outcomes.

One tip to make your New Year resolutions achievable.

Hopefully you are celebrating the successful achievement of your 2010 goals.  And hopefully you are looking forward to setting new goals for yourself and maybe your department, organization or community.  You have probably heard it's a good idea to write them down and tell other people about them.

Most people think it is about record keeping.  Good record keeping is no small thing in itself when it comes to September and you are trying to remember what you promised to do.  However, that is not the main reason why  writing a resolution down and telling other people about it makes it more achievable.

It's nothing "new age" or anything mystical about the universe.  It's a simple insight we have into the psychology of how our minds work.  There is indeed a power to writing things down and telling others:  it's the psychological power of cognitive dissonance.

Consider two statements:  "I am a good person" and "I tell the truth".  Most of us would believe both of these to be true about ourselves.  Now say you write down your resolution and you achieve it.  Ta dah!  You are a good person and you tell the truth.

However, let's say you wrote down your resolution and you are maybe not going to achieve it.  Cognitive dissonance kicks in.  Perhaps "I am a good person" and yet "I don't tell the truth".   This is unlikely and your mind rejects it.  Instead, your conscious and subconscious mind works on the the idea that "I am a good person" and "I tell the truth" therefore … "I should/I must achieve my resolution". 

The act of writing down your resolution means you have taken more effort with your resolution and the harder is it for your mind to think you went to that effort, you're a good person but you didn't tell the truth.

The power of cognitive dissonance says the more effort you put into writing down your resolution the more your unconscious will motivate you to make it true.  Buy an expensive note book, use  fancy calligraphy and give a copy to all your friends.

Of course, you could argue that telling other people just means you will get shamed into having to complete your resolution, but it is really the same thing.  If you are a good person and you tell the truth and you look like you are not going to achieve your resolution…either you have to put a lot of mental and social effort into explaining to yourself and others why…or you just put extra effort into achieving the resolution!

If you are a manager or leader get the people you work with to write down their resolutions, goals and promises for the coming year.  Join them, and be the first one prepared to share your resolutions publicly.  Watch how the more effort is put into writing down the resolution, and the more publicly it is shared, the harder people will work at all levels to make it come true.

Cognitive dissonance was one of the first things I learned as a psychologist about counseling people and I was stunned by how well it works in almost every case.

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