Do You Make New Year’s Resolutions? What Your Answer Reveals

I’ve been thinking a lot about New Year’s resolutions for the past few days — and I’ve been thinking about my “Four Tendencies” framework for the past few years.

And I’ve noticed certain patterns about what members of the different Tendencies say about New Year’s resolutions.

This pattern isn’t clear enough to be a dispositive test of a person’s Tendency, but it is interesting to note how often people of the same Tendency say similar things.

To re-cap about my Four Tendencies framework: For my book about habits, Better Than Before, I propose the “Four Tendencies,” which describe how people tend to respond to expectations (warning, this sounds a bit dry, but stay with me, it’s very interesting):

–outer expectations (a deadline, a “request” from a sweetheart) and

–inner expectations (write a novel in your free time, keep a New Year’s resolution).

Your response to expectations may sound obscure, but it turns out to be very, very important.

In a nutshell:

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations (I’m an Upholder, 100%)
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense (my husband is a Questioner)
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

If you’d like to see me discuss each category in  a video, you can watch: for Upholders, watch here; Questioners, here;  Rebels, here, and Obligers, here.

Want to figure out your Tendency? Click here.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions…

Upholders often enjoy making New Year’s resolutions, though they may also make resolutions during other times of the year. When they do make a resolution, they tend to do a good job of sticking to it.

Questioners often make resolutions, but they won’t wait until January 1 to start them.  They consider January 1 an arbitrary date, so think it’s foolish to use it as a starting point; they’d just start right away. Once they make up their mind to keep a resolution, they have good success.

Obligers have often given up making resolutions. If they’ve made resolutions in the past, they’ve often failed to keep them, so they don’t want to make new ones.  (If you’re an Obliger who wants to make a New Year’s resolution for 2015, remember: you must create a system of external accountability if you want to stick to it. Crucial.)

Rebels won’t make New Year’s resolutions. They’d never bind themselves in that way.

How about you? Do you make resolutions on January 1, or at any time, or never?

I’m an Upholder, all the way, and I will say that although I like the idea of New Year’s resolutions, I usually don’t wait until January 1 to try something. I just go ahead, because I’m eager to try something new.

Of course, given my approach to my subject matter of habits and happiness, this is somewhat of an occupational necessity.  Or, more likely, I’ve been using my writing to give me a great justification to do all the things I wanted to do, anyway.

As I told a friend, as we drove across the Brooklyn Bridge to go to the shop of a rogue perfumer, “This field trip counts as a billable hour for me.” Don’t think that I ever take that for granted. I don’t.

I do end up making lots of resolutions.

  • Kp

    You are so right. As a questioner I have already begun my one resolution.

  • Mimi Gregor

    I’m a questioner, and your assessment describes my take on resolutions exactly. In general, I don’t find anything more “special” about holidays than any other day, so if I want to make a “resolution”, I will start on it immediately or on a date that makes sense to me. I think that the winter holidays are a bad time to start something new, anyway. A lot of stress surrounds them. It’s probably best to start something doing something radically different at a time of year when there isn’t so much extra stuff going on in your life.

    • Gillian

      I agree that the best time to start is when it works best for you and has the greatest chance of success. I find that January is perhaps the best month for me because all the Christmas preparations & celebrations are done with, there are no special events in the offing and no gardening to worry about so I’m most likely to have time, peace and quiet for 3 months to think about and implement plans and to get a good start on a new way of doing things. But I don’t start on January 1 – the clean slate for me begins on the first Monday after January 1.

  • aleishacd

    You pegged me. Have given up on NY’s resolutions because I NEVER keep them. ~Obliger

  • penelope Schmitt

    I think I am a questioner, but an upholder also. New Year Resolutions are attractive to me, and I always make them. I tend to dive in wherever appropriate during the year for things like diet and exercise though. I do not wait for the big date or the big occasion. Some of my more successful efforts started ‘off New Year’, becuase it was just TIME to commit. On the other hand, the blank page of a New Year is endlessly intruiguing and exciting to me. My Christmas presents to myself often are journals and record keeping tools. I love that blank page. Wonder what will go on it this year?

    By the way, my word for 2015 is TIDY. I have to say that ‘KIND’ (last year’s word) was one observed mostly when I failed to fulfill that intention. I thought about my tendency to be harsh and abrupt a lot. And I came to realize there are a lot of reasons why it is not easy for me to be kind. I have to work hard to cope with the manipulativeness, negativity, and underhanded attacks of the very people to whom I most want to be kind. I have learned most of all that sometimes the best way to be kind is to be silent and not to play in the conversation offered. This does not seem kind. Also, to ‘run away’ can be a way to be kind. I have done both. Kindness–it isn’t always easy! Let’s see about TIDY!

  • Rebecca

    I’m a rebel and I make new year’s resolutions!

    They aren’t specific though, they are thematic — so I have a lot of leeway in following through on it.

    I had a year of health, where I lost 25 pounds and exercised consistently, a year of education when I read 100+ books, took classes, etc., etc.

    This coming year is going to be the year of sobriety — literally and figuratively.

    I’m not sure how having a concrete resolution (no drinking) will do for me… but I do know that this is the year I’m going to stop drinking the kool-aid (highs and lows / hope and desperation of your 20’s) and get down to the sobering, nuts and bolts work that needs to get done.

    I know it might not sound fun… but I’m really looking forward to it.

  • Gretchen I loved your one-minute video for your captivating Happier at Home book — and I hope you make and share many more — yet framed in explanatory text, as you can do with the free app, Gloopt

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  • wongeelynn

    I am a cross between an Upholder and an Obliger, and ever since becoming a regular reader of your blog (I read both ‘Project Happiness’ and ‘Happiness at Home’ as well), I have learned a lot more about myself, my habits and how to use that newfound knowledge to improve myself. You can see traces of GretchenRubinism in my New Year’s Resolutions 2015 here: