Illustration: David Pohl
Last year four of my friends—Marlene, Ellie, Karla, and Chip—all resolved to get in shape and lose weight. Now, these people had never met, so the odds of their making exactly the same resolution were...actually quite predictable, since pretty much everybody puts fitness on their New Year's resolutions list. There are rumors of humans who've never resolved to eat less and move more, but until scientists discover concrete evidence (hair, fibers, DNA-smeared doughnut boxes), we must assume they exist only in hallucinations of ordinary people who've been weakened by months and months of dieting.
At any rate, by last February all my friends had fallen off the resolution wagon and were munching their way to larger clothing sizes and a profound sense of failure. Something similar may happen to you this year, whatever your resolutions.If it does, don't blame your weak will; blame isolation. Research shows that humans tend to do difficult things much better in teams and groups than on their own. I suggest that this year you seek a specific type of goal-oriented companionship I call the Fellowship of the Resolution.
The Virtue of Motley Crews
If you loved J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (or hated it but absorbed the plot because of peer pressure), you'll recall that the Fellowship of the Ring was a team consisting of hobbits, humans, a dwarf, a wizard, and an elf. Although these species usually avoided one another, their disparities turned out to be essential for saving Middle Earth. The Fellowship met monsters only a hobbit could trick, caves only a dwarf could spelunk, spells only an elf could counter, and orcs whose strength could be overcome only by Viggo Mortensen's flexing of his facial muscles, paralyzing the beasts with acute awareness of their inferior looks.
When it comes to New Year's resolutions, you, too, need a Fellowship. But it's not enough to enlist your longtime BFFs—the buddies you've known forever, who think and act just like you. As Tolkien's story suggests, the key to success is teaming up with people who are emphatically not on your wavelength. This is especially true in behavioral patterns called conative styles.
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