Failing in Public


I don’t particularly care to make New Year’s Resolutions. I read somewhere that over 80% of people have failed to keep their resolutions by the end of February each year. That kind of failure rate gives the teacher in me the shivers!

People who do keep them, typically make their resolutions “public”. I read recently that people are nine times more likely to do what they resolve to do if they will share their resolutions with others. Making it “public” does not necessarily mean that you must shout it out to a group of people or even shout it out on social media; instead you may choose to share it with one or two others. People who you trust to give you feedback and to hold you accountable. Or, maybe, just people who will listen to you if you fail (those are my words).

As a person who falls on the introverted side of things, the thought of sharing my goal with a person or two feels just right. It’s not that people like me won’t share, it is that many times we have a small group of people with whom we really trust our feelings.

I was working with a school faculty recently. We were deep into some work we were doing together to make classrooms at the school more equitable. Following my own notion, I asked them to individually make some personal choices as to a practice or two I had offered to them that they would promise to practice in their classrooms over the next couple of weeks. While, on one hand, these practices are quite personal, I fought against what would have been my own desires and asked each person to make their promise public with a small group in which they had been gathered. Boy, that felt right. And, listening to their conversations, I found that they were not only making their resolutions “public” but were receiving affirmation from others around them. Without being told to do so!

Now, I can’t wait to go back and allow them to share their successes AND failures with one another. I can’t help but think that sharing failures helps to build relational trust. The kind of deep trust that allows people on a team, on a faculty, on a squad, in an office, in a faith community, in a neighborhood to really make “public” their own resolutions and to allow others to hold them accountable and to be free to share successes and failures without fear.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could do so as a country, too? Just a thought as we hit 2020.

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