In years past, I’ve often shared my goals with just about anyone who will hear (or read) them. I’ve shouted them from the rooftops as if to say, “Look at my incredible ambition.” But I’m no longer doing that. Here’s why.
Why We Share Our Goals
There are many reasons why we might share our goals with others, but I believe there are three primary reasons.
1. We are looking for accountability.
This is the most common reason we share our goals, rather it be with a small group of people or publicly on our blog or elsewhere.
What better way to hold ourselves accountable than to share our goals with hundreds (or more) of people, right? It’s one thing to fall short of our goals when only we know them. It’s another thing entirely when others are expecting you to achieve them, rooting for you, or waiting for you to fall.
The result of not reaching your goals when others know about them is often guilt and shame. Fear often becomes the motivating force behind our last minute push to reach our goal. Our reward shifts from internal to external.
Accountability partners are great, but should be kept to a minimum (two or three people).
2. We secretly want others to talk us out of them.
The first reason is rooted in wanting help achieving our goals. Its mission is to enlist others to support us.
This reason, as I have seen far too often, is rooted in fear.
Sometimes we set goals that scare us. That is actually a good thing. As Michael Hyatt says in his 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever course, goals should be outside of your comfort zone. Otherwise, they aren’t engaging or inspiring enough. They don’t require that much effort. They don’t require you to change.
Goals SHOULD be outside of your comfort zone. Otherwise, they aren’t engaging or inspiring enough.
But when we set goals that scare us, we often look for a way out. So we share with others in the secret hope that they will talk us out of them.
We share our goal with our mother who reminds us that we don’t have the education to achieve that. We share them with a co-worker who laughs because the boss will never agree to that. We share them with a lifelong friend who scoffs because opportunities like that just don’t exist in your town.
We always get what we hope for when we share goals for this reason. People talk us out of them.
So we continue to set the bar low, living uninspired and comfortable lives of mediocrity.
3. To impress others.
This is the dirtiest little secret reason we don’t like to admit about why we share our goals. And it’s also the most damaging.
Two years ago, I wrote a post and shared my goals publicly. It was so lame in retrospect that I won’t even link to it, but feel free to search for it.
As I look back on that post, I realized now what I was really doing. I was saying,”Look at me. I set such high goals. I am so important. Aren’t I amazing?”
When I wrote that post, I wanted you (the reader) to think more highly of me. After all, I was shooting for the stars, so why shouldn’t you be impressed?
But there is a big problem with sharing your goals with others, at least too many others.
The problem is that it backfires.
Why Sharing Your Goals Hurts Your Chances of Achieving Them
Years ago, Derek Sivers delivered one of the shortest TED Talks ever. It was barely more than three minutes.
In it, he shared something that completely transformed how I go about sharing my goals. Basically, I don’t anymore, except with a small group of people close tome.
Why? Because, according to Sivers, sharing your goals publicly makes them less like to actually happen.
There is a fascinating reason for this. Sharing your goals gives you the psychological satisfaction of reaching your goal…without actually doing the necessary work. In other words, just talking about your goals gives you the same feeling of accomplishment as achieving them. It’s like taking a magic weight loss pill instead of going to the gym.
The video of Sivers’ TED Talk is above so make sure to watch it. In it, he shares the research that proves that sharing your goals is counterproductive.
Sivers cites the work of several psychologists, including Kurt Lewin, Wera Mahler, and Peter Gollwitzer. One study done by Dr. Gollwitzer (interesting name for the head of a goal study, huh?) is particularly interesting.
He had two groups of people write down a personal goal. One group announced their goal, the other half did not. They kept it to themselves. Then each group was given 45 minutes to work toward their goal, but they were told they could stop at any time.
Those who did not share their goal worked the entire 45 minutes. Those who had gone public with their goal stopped after 33 minutes on average. On top of that, the ones who did not share the goal publicly still felt they had work to do.
In other words, those who shared gave up sooner, put in less work, and generally felt like they had already accomplished more than those who did not share publicly.
That’s why you won’t see a “My 2016 Goals” post this year. I’m keeping my mouth shut except with my inner circle.
And maybe, just maybe, when the dust settles, I’ll share what I actually did accomplish here.
If you are looking for a PROVEN goal-setting formula, make sure to check out Michael Hyatt’s Five Days to Your Best Year Ever. It’s the system I’ve used for the past two years and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Do you share your goals publicly. If so, why?