Keep Your Goals to Yourself

Recently I watched a very interesting video of Derek Sivers talking about keeping your goals to yourself (click here to view the video). In this video he talks about decades of research that goes against what most of us have been told about setting goals.

Throughout my whole professional career I have been told that we have a greater chance of achieving our goals when we tell someone about it. This way they can help hold us accountable to that goal. The research that Derek refers to actually says the opposite. That when we tell someone our goal our mind is tricked into feeling we have already achieved the goal and that feeling of satisfaction actually decreases our motivation to do the work needed to reach the goal. Our mind mistakes the talking about our goal for the doing of the goal.

My first reaction was that this is hooey. If we aren’t held accountable how will we ever reach our goals? Then, as I rolled some of these ideas around in my head I got to thinking about how unsuccessful most people are at reaching their goals. So perhaps there is something here, something for us to look at. If we are not having success at achieving our goals then we need to try a different approach. Is keeping your goals to yourself the new approach to try, I am not sure. But it sure gives us some food for thought.

If you would like to read Derek Sivers blog on this topic where he outlines the research in more detail please click here.

5 thoughts on “Keep Your Goals to Yourself

  • I think there is some truth to that. I also wonder if feelings of failure are increased if you don't reach a goal that you've told people about – or if you don't reach it within the designated time line. Perhaps selecting one or two people whom you know will help you put mechanisms into place to support you towards your goal would be more beneficial. Perhaps a coach, trainer, or someone close to you who has achieved a similar goal?

  • I think there is a difference between the person who tells people about their goals once they are firmly planted in their heads and hearts and the people who just like to have a goal to chat about.The first person will achieve. The second just likes to tell people about their goals in hopes their friends will help them achieve.

  • Thank you for your comments Leah and Barb! I find this whole discussion fascinating. I think that for the people who are internally motivated (the goal is firmly planted in their heads and hearts as Barb put it) they will likely achieve anything they set their mind to regardless of who they tell their goal to. I wonder about the people who are not intrinsically motivated. I suspect that it is these people who may need a different type of support and accountability.I like Leah's suggestion of only telling 1 or 2 people who you know will help you. I think that would help minimize the talking about the goal and hopefully maximize the doing of the goal.

  • I think he says at the end of the video that having someone who keeps you accountable still has a positive influence on whether or not a goal will be achieved. Perhaps it works better not to tell people your exact goal – 5 pounds in 3 weeks – but good to tell someone that if they see that you're not going to the gym after work, they should hold you accountable. I find that I do better if I tell people about my end goal when I'm well on my way, and my new habits are already firmly established. There have been so many times in my life, recently too, where I've told people how many pounds i want to lose by when, and it just doesn't happen. And I do think I feel kind of accomplished just talking about a goal, even when I've done nothing to achieve it other than say it exists. It also feels much worse to fail and might make people more resistant to trying again if they think people won't believe that they're serious this time around, perhaps?

  • Good point Krystyna. Keeping the details of the goal to yourself but perhaps sharing what actions you want to be held accountable to (ie. going to the gym 3 times per week). That way you have accountability for the behavior without the risk of feeling like you have accomplished something before you have even started to work on it.

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