Dear New Year’s resolutions. It was fun while it lasted, signed January 2.

The catchy sentiment from our Quote of the Day feature on LinkedIn and Facebook drew howls of laughter from the guilty. Making and keeping our resolutions seems to be an uphill battle that most of us lose.

Our first big idea for the day is this: If willpower, reason and executive functioning skills seem like a recipe for success, why have so many given up the ghost when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, 23 days into the New Year?

Our second big idea focuses on how you can reframe an argument to end it in the spirit of finding common ground.

Northeastern psychology professor David DeSteno argues in his new book, “Emotional Success” that we are going about keeping our resolutions all wrong.

DeSteno argues that we should be relying on social emotions like gratitude, compassion and pride to get things done. These emotions encourage self-control and patience, DeSteno wrote.

In a Q&A with Olga Khazan of the online Science website, DeSteno said our ability to value the future more than the present, to persevere, and to face temptation and delay gratification are essential ingredients to success. How we approach these issues is the problem, he believes.

DeSteno says that with willpower you have to work at keeping your attention focused on something that is hard to do, and that it is doubly tough when you are battling your desires not to do that hard thing. We can talk ourselves in to why it is okay to eat those unhealthy comfort foods or to make that luxury purchase instead of putting money away for a rainy day and, in doing so, completely avoid the whole matter of willpower. He adds that when we are tired or stressed, our resolutions head for the drain.

Self control is more about keeping social relationships, DeSteno says. The ability to form cooperative relationships requires self control through cooperation. You must have empathy, compassion and desire to support other people. You have to be honest, you have to be fair and generous. In these situations, you are accepting some sacrifice in the moment — not earning as much as you could, or helping someone else move to a new apartment on a day, all things considered, when you would just as soon not help. It is these emotions, DeSteno says that ease the mind to position of self control. When we do this we avoid devaluing the future which makes it is easier to persevere and to eat broccoli over some rich, creamy high dollar ice cream, for example. You are not fighting a desire, you are actually changing what you desire in the first place, he says.

New York Times Columnist David Brooks says studies show that when people feel grateful for something, they double their level of self-control. Brooks calls these emotions “resume virtues” – those that you need to succeed in your career, and “eulogy virtues” – those that you want to be remembered for. He says that it is hard for people to feel grateful when they are upset about an issue.

DeSteno urges people to keep a daily gratitude journal. The thing one realizes is that if you write the same three things every day, they are going to lose their power. Your gratitude list does not have to be filled with big issues. Smaller items can play an important role.

People who express their gratitude this way find that in three weeks time they begin to exhibit more self-control.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a big devotee of the journaling habit and I agree with DeSteno that journaling gratitude for the same thing or person every day will result in a decline of your emotions on that issue.

Journaling is not just some quick throw away part of your delay routine. One must be thoughtful and purposeful, willing to invest the time to think about the many issues of the day that could spur gratitude — to promote more self-control and improve performance.

Now this.

Have you ever been in a business conversation that suddenly became an argument over a strategy or a proposal and you are thinking what the heck just happened?

What triggered the argument from a conversation, more than likely, is that the other party dug in their heels and refused to even consider your point of view.

You are not alone. David Hofield, a Fast Company magazine contributor writes that the chances of converting or winning that person over to your point of view is somewhere between slim and none. Belief change, as psychologist Art Markman says, frequently becomes a “war of attrition. There is usually no one argument that can suddenly get someone to see the light.”

But there is some research that suggests that reframing your ideas “can boost your opponents receptiveness to them,” Markman said.

On the political front, where there are some awfully interesting and noisy shouting matches occurring, behavioral scientists Matthew Feinberg and Rob Willer found in a research study of 1,322 participants, that “compliance rates” with a specific political message increased if the message was reframed to leverage the existing beliefs of the listener.

The research revealed that it is best not to channel a person’s firmly held beliefs but to connect your own position to those beliefs. This means you will have to emphasize values you may not share, which Mr. Hoffield said could be the tricky part, but it can help others see the legitimacy of your position and reduce the gap between your point of view and theirs.

Here is one scenario Hoffield used to make his point: If you are in disagreement with a co-worker who is feeling anxious about moving ahead with a new project, you could say: I respect your commitment to doing what is best for the company (the existing belief). Can I share with you two reasons why this new project will strengthen the company? (connecting your beliefs to theirs)

In this case you have reframed the issue around a common desire to do what is best for the company.

Another example Mr. Hoffield used is this:

You are sharing a plan with your manager to improve production capabilities and rates of output but the manager dismisses you by saying the plan you are recommending is too costly. Instead of trying to justify the cost, reframe the conversation by connecting it with the manager’s existing belief.

I know you want to improve our production capabilities and to make sure we meet our objectives and goals for the next year. My concern is that if we under invest in these upgrades, we’ll limit our ability to grow our output, which will cost us a lot of lost production. The plan I put together is priced to grow production so that we will meet our objectives.

Hoffeld argues that the point is to understand your opponents’ perspective first and then link the beliefs supporting their perspective to your argument.

The whole point is to find enough common ground to win them to your side — not to run to opposite corners and scream at one another across the great divide.

These are our big ideas for this week.

And finally, our firm is pleased to announce we have been engaged to search for a new President and Chief Executive Officer for Fulton County Medical Center in the town of McConnellsburg in the scenic Great Cove Valley of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

We are seeking an experienced CEO with Critical Access Hospital experience who excels in operational performance improvement to build on the impressive accomplishments of the previous CEO. If you have an interest, or if you know of someone we should be talking with, contact Ken Richmond at ken@JohnGSelf.Com or email your resume to

I hope our ideas prove useful. If you like the podcast I hope you will subscribe at iTunes or at JohnGSelf.Com.

Thanks for listening. See you next week.