Photo courtesy of Andrew Allio
Common goal-setting wisdom says that you should tell as many people as possible about your goals in order to achieve them. This is so that you can then draw the strength of your personal support network when times get tough, and they can hold you accountable. The theory is that the more people who know about your goal, the more you’ll look like a failure if you don’t follow through, and so you’re more likely to work harder.
I, however, was surprised to hear this perspective, because in my own experience I have found exactly the opposite to be true – i.e. telling people about my goals actually makes me far less likely to achieve them. In the past when I have kept a project to myself, I found myself more determined to work harder to get the job done so that I could brag about it.
Several psychological studies have delved deeper into this topic, attempting to work out exactly how people’s minds behave when they tell other people about their goals. What they found was that test subjects got a great deal of satisfaction in their goals being acknowledged after sharing them with somebody else, so much so that their minds were tricked into feeling like they had already achieved the goal.
Several experts believe this satisfaction felt from sharing plans actually makes people less likely to go out and do them. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, I know. But I can’t tell you how many of my friends have told me about a great new project they’re about to start working on, only for the project to disappear into obscurity within days.
My advice to you would be to look back at some of your past goals. Do you always follow through with your plans, or have you started more projects than you’ve finished? If you’re the kind of person who is motivated about having your family and friends cheering for you, and you’re worried about how you’ll look to them if you fail, then broadcasting your goals might work well for you. If, on the other hand, you gain greater motivation from the thought of keeping things under wraps and having a big ta-dah! reveal at the end when you’ve actually accomplished something, then do just that. You could find your next project a lot easier to stick with.