Entrepreneur Derek Sivers used his 2010 TED talk to show that when we tell someone our goals, our mind is tricked into feeling like it’s already done. This means we’re less likely to go through the process of achieving them.
This was confirmed by research that found when participants shared their goals with someone else, they actually reduced their commitment to achieving them. According to Sivers, there are three ways to avoid this: resist the temptation to tell people; delay the gratification that the social acknowledgment brings; and understand that your mind mistakes the talking for the doing.
But there is an important consideration. Both Sivers and the research found that if you share your goals in a way that encourages you to complete each step you need to take to get there, then it might be beneficial after all. For example, if you’re training for a marathon you should tell people you need to train five times a week at a particular time and place, rather than just saying ‘I’m going to run a marathon’.
Other research confirms that sending friends regular updates about your progress can boost your chances of succeeding, while people who think about the end result without working out how they’re going to get there succeed less than 50 percent of the time. Writing down these actions also helped participants in the study accomplish more than their daydreaming counterparts.
It’s clear that accountability and consequence play a greater role in achieving our goals than simply whether we tell someone or not. Rather than simply daydreaming about a new life plan, we need to be specific with our goals and the actions that are required to achieve them.
Although more vague, flexible plans seem more appealing, being specific about the steps we need to take has been shown to lead to greater goal achievement. In fact, almost 100 studies have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.
So if you’re going to make your goals public, make sure you create actionable goals and share them with people who will hold you accountable to them.
Do you tend to share your goals, or keep them to yourself?