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Well, it’s that time of the year again. We’ve gotten past the holidays and we’re ready to start another New Year. And with that, we have the annual tradition of the New Year’s Resolution – so whether we’re making them ourselves or helping others, I’ve found that using Well Formed Outcomes always works better than relying on willpower alone.

Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re familiar with Well Formed Outcomes:

  • Stated in positives
  • Initiated and maintained by the Individual
  • Ecological
  • Sensorially verifiable

If you add in a Timeline, you can also imagine the steps you would have to take to achieve a positive result and plot out a schedule to keep yourself on track and make appropriate changes as you go along.

What I like to add to this is care in the language you’re using when phrasing a New Year’s Resolution. We’ve all heard the standards: I MUST QUIT smoking this year or I HAVE To LOSE weight this year, the key words in these resolutions being, MUST, HAVE TO, QUIT and LOSE. Most people have a visceral reaction to Modal Operators of Necessity like Must and Have To so it’s very important to check to see if those Modal Operators work for you or would others like CAN, WANT or ALLOW (Modal Operators of Possibility) work better. Remember, sometimes the Modal Operators of Necessity work for some people so always check what would work best for you or your client.

The other words, like QUIT or LOSE are also something that would be good to check. After all, many people would work twice as hard to keep from losing something than to gain something. They’re unconsciously reacting to the word rather than the goal. In English, the word Quit often has a negative connotation. As children, we’re told not to be a Quitter even though quitting something that isn’t good for you is the right thing to do.

So when you pay attention to the words you’re using in New Year’s Resolutions, please look at no only the form, but the actual words to pick the best ones to make the resolution successful.