Keep your Goals to Yourself?

Conventional wisdom tells us it is a good idea to share our goals with others for the purpose of vocalizing them and soliciting help with accountability to help keep us on track. But Derek Sivers suggests this may, in fact, be counter productive to realizing your goals.

    Sivers argues based on the work of social scientists over the last 80 years for a phenomenon called Social Reality.  In a 2009 study, 163 individuals were asked to write down a goal, and they asked half of them to share with the group what they had written.  The other half didn’t have the opportunity to do so.

    Participants were the given an assignment to help them do some thinking and planning for their goal, and they had up to 45 minutes to do so.  What they discovered is fascinating.  The group who did not have the opportunity to share their goal with the group used the entire 45 minutes and when asked how they felt about their goal they all said they had a lot to do / a long way to go.   

    The group who did have the opportunity to share their goal with the group, on average spent 33 minutes on the assignment and reported feeling a lot closer to realizing their goal.

    Telling people about your goal makes in less likely that you will complete your goal because the good feeling of sharing your goal with others and the resulting positive feedback tricks your mind into thinking you have in a sense completed the goal.  The mind mistakes the talking for the doing!

    So how are we able to harness the power of community to propel us to our goals through encouragement and accountability but not sabotage our work toward the goal?  Sivers suggests:

  • Resist the temptation to share our goals.
  • Be aware that the mind can often mistake talking for doing.
  • If you need to share it - state it in a way which doesn’t give you any satisfaction.  This may go like:  I really want to have this project completed in 8 days, so I have to accomplish these tasks each day - can you check on me to see if I’m doing that?  Or “I really need to get my weight down, and I need to exercise 20 minutes a day - can you help light a fire under me when I waver?”

So what do you think?  In your experience, have you found this to be true?
Derek Sivers, TEDGlobal, July 2010

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