KEY POINTS-

  • To reach one's New Year's resolutions (or any goal) one must build in structures to ensure we take action.
  • Making public declarations about our commitments is one such structure.
  • Public declarations invite the cumulative effect of everyone's anticipation of success.
  • Gandhi was a master at this, demonstrating that one person can move a nation and a world.
OpenClipart-Vectors/ Pixabay
 
OpenClipart-Vectors/ Pixabay

The fourth and final week of our project for reaching our New Year’s resolutions together is here. 

How has your progress been going? When life comes along to try to thwart your efforts, do you remember to do the opposite of the defense that would keep you from your commitment?

 

Here’s our last strategy for dealing with such obstacles: Make public declarations about your resolutions to other people.

Making public declarations

Psychologist William James said, “If you want to make a change, make a public declaration that you are doing so.”

This strategy is like doing psychological jiu-jitsu: once we tell others about our commitments, we become more interested in “saving face” (by keeping the commitments) than we are in any fear that might arise as we move toward fulfilling our promises.

 

Even more than the strategies of setting your goals on a timeline and visualizing your goals on a movie screen (see previous blogs), declaring your commitments publicly makes it almost inevitable you will take action on them. Since we human beings are so thoroughly oriented toward social sanctioning, when we make our commitments public, we can feel “lifted” by the force of this drive.

 

The ideal attitude we want in this is not to be concerned about others’ judgments if you fail to keep your commitment. That would be adding fear to fear. Rather, we want to cultivate the anticipation and excitement of others joining us in celebration of reaching our goal.

How it works

Something happens when we announce to others what we are up to, especially if it is something dearly held or passionately felt. We hear ourselves declare our intention and suddenly it becomes a living, breathing thing. Others act as witnesses to what you have decided to do (even if in a minor way), and you feel the power of the shared experience. It’s as if they’re supporting you in your effort just by watching what you do, holding a space of expectation, and, hopefully, sharing your excitement about what it will be like when you succeed.

 

Even if others don’t get excited about it, even if they throw cold water on the idea, you still receive the benefit of having made the whole thing “real” by your declaration. Perhaps you’ll develop an “I’ll prove it to you” response, which can help you become even more engaged in your commitment to success.

 

The example Gandhi set

Gandhi was a master at this principle of “making public declarations.” When he wanted to bring attention to the cause of freeing India from British rule, he would plan some (according to the British) seditious act, and was sure to have newspaper reporters on the scene to broadcast his intention as widely as possible.

 

When he knew that his actions would send him to jail, he invited the opportunity, knowing it would make for more notice in the papers, strengthening his cause, gathering more followers to join in the movement. Finally, the mighty British empire relented, powerless against the united force of such a groundswell. India became a free and independent nation.

It was often commented upon that Gandhi was just one person, and a very diminutive person at that. Yet the potency of his tactic for inspiring the masses was enough to overpower what was, at the time, the world's most powerful nation. Consider this when your resolution to keep your New Year’s commitments.

 

The past four blogs have been a series on how the Deconstructing Anxiety model helps ensure you reach your New Year's Resolutions. They apply to any goal in life. As we say in Deconstructing Anxiety, it is only ever a defense against a fear that can sabotage our best intentions and interfere with reaching our goals. The master key to success, then, is simply to "do the opposite" of the defense, facing the fear that was in the way, and discovering it has no power to keep you from your fulfillment.