Resolution, Schmesolution, We All Make Them, Then Break Them

Ask, don't tell.

No, we're not talking about gays in the military but New Year's resolutions.

Experts say if you ask someone if they're going to exercise in the new year, you're far more likely to get a positive response than if you say, you're a fat pig, you need to lose weight.

We all make resolutions at the new year -- and most of us drop them by about the third week of January.  I know, I'm one of them -- though my determination to lose weight and run at least 3 miles a day every day has stayed strong.  Of course, I've only lost about 5 pounds this year and some people still say, "I saw you out walking," when I'm jogging by.

But asking about resolutions in a simple question can be a game-changing technique for people who want to influence their own or others' behavior, according to a recent study spanning 40 years of research.

 The research looked at the phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behavior influences whether they do it in the future. The really good news?  The effect has been shown to last more than six months after questioning.

 "If you question a person about performing a future behavior, the likelihood of that behavior happening will change," says Dave Sprott, a co-author and senior associate dean of the Carson College of Business, Washington State University, at

The basic idea is that when people are asked '"Will you recycle?", it causes a psychological response that can influence their behavior when they get a chance to recycle. The question reminds them that recycling is good for the environment but may also make them feel uncomfortable if they are not recycling. Thus, they become motivated to recycle to alleviate their feelings of discomfort.

I'm not so sure it's that simple.  As we all know, losing weight or deciding to exercise -- even just TO exercise -- is often dependent upon how good that cheesecake looks and how tired we are (or how cold it is outside).

I've learned to force myself outside even in the height of winter (that's how I broke my wrist two years ago, slipping on ice while running).  There's something so beautiful about the air and the wet tap of snowflakes on your eyelashes, the fact that no one else is out and about, your warm breath fogging the air in front of you.  My favorite time is to run early in the morning, when it's still dark, and the stars pierce the dawn sky. 

But getting back to resolutions, while 40% of us make them, just 8% of us achieve them for any length of time.  Call it laziness or disinterest or just plain old life getting in the way, we drop them pretty quickly.  (My favorite is the first meeting of the new year at Weight Watchers -- so packed it's standing room only.  About a month later?  There's a chair for everyone.)

Let's face it.  It's hard keeping promises.  But when we make them to ourselves, it's so important to keep them.  Now I have to tell -- I mean, ask -- my husband if he's done his exercise today. 


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