Last year, I woke up on New Year’s Day and scrolled through my social media feeds. It was completely filled with chatter about resolutions.
One one side were people talking earnestly about traveling the world, learning to cook, getting fit. On the other side were people mocking the whole idea of resolutions, that they won’t stick and that people were wasting their money on new gym memberships.
It was all very predictable.
I wondered if there was a better way.
Five years before, I had made a public goal on this blog to run at least a mile a day and drink at least a beer a day. I decided to continue this streak for one year, the last year of my 20s.
It wasn’t always easy. I ran through Milwaukee’s worst blizzard in years and another time on a treadmill at 1 a.m. in a New Jersey hotel. I chugged a PBR just before midnight during a busy day of work and travel. I finished the occasional late-night run after a happy hour. I had to be both determined and flexible to keep up the streak.
But overall, it was a big success. I set multiple PRs. I averaged a beer for about every three miles I ran. At the end of one year, I kept the streak going. I enjoyed it so much I ended up continuing my beer and running streak for three years instead of the original plan of one year.
During that time, I got written about in Runner’s World and BroBible, was interviewed by WIRED Magazine, and attracted thousands of Twitter followers. The public attention held me accountable and, in part, motivated me to keep my streak going even after I was ready to give up.
Fast forward a few years and I was sitting and contemplating my New Year’s resolutions. I was coming off two of my best years of running, having set two sub-3 hour marathon PRs. So I decided to start another beer and running streak.
Except this time, I wouldn’t tell anyone.
My motivation was something Derek Sivers wrote about goals:
“Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen,” Sivers wrote (emphasis his). “Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.”
I wanted to see if he was right with an experiment. Was it more effective to announce my intentions publically? Or keep it to myself?
To my surprise, I found it motivating to have a secret goal that no one knew about. It gave me a sense of pride to think that while others were bragging about intentions on social media, I was quietly accomplishing what I set out to do. It felt like I was using the energy it takes to get attention on social media and harnessing it for myself.
Summer flew by and the streak kept going. I ran a Beer Garden 5K series and won all five races. I set a new 5K PR of 17 minutes flat. And I started marathon training again with the intention of setting a new PR.
Then the streak hit a speed bump. I developed a corn on my foot that made it extremely painful to run. But of all the stupid injuries, I wasn’t going to let this one ruin my streak. I slogged through months of useless self-remedy before finally visiting the doctor to get it removed.
By then my training had suffered. My marathon race came, and it was a disaster. It was unseasonably warm, humid and rained the whole 26.2. My time was a disappointment.
And still, I continued the secret streak. But it became a chore instead of an adventure. I found myself procrastinating, running later in the day, and covering only my one mile minimum. It was finally during one night sneaking out at 11:50 pm to run that I told my wife what I was up to.
One day, I decided to quit. I was sore, it was cold out, and I no longer felt motivated to keep going. I told my wife I was hanging up the streak.
She told me not to quit. So I went outside and ran a mile. It paid to let others in on my secret, after all.
It’s now one year after I set my secret New Year’s resolution. I didn’t make it to a full year, but I came close. I got sick a few weeks ago and had to stop the streak. In the end, I ran and drank a beer for 345 consecutive days.
I can’t say if it’s more effective for your goals to keep them secret or make them public. I think both approaches had their positive and negatives, and you’ll have ups and downs when pursuing a goal no matter what.
But for me, this experience reinforced that running and craft beer culture is a social experience. By not discussing my streak publically, I missed out on opportunities to share the highs and lows with others. I cut myself off a bit from the communal aspect.
If you have New Year’s Resolutions this year, I think it’s OK to shout them from the mountaintops, or at least from your Facebook page. Or keep it for yourself.
I’d love to hear what you’re doing for your resolutions and if I can help support you. If you want, I don’t have to tell anyone else.
I can keep a secret.