Like a tree with a fresh engraving, my tattoo was but a minute old. And yet, just like that, a goal I had been quietly working towards for over a year was achieved.
When I say quietly, I mean, quietly. As in, I didn’t write about it beforehand, I didn’t talk about it with others, I kept it to myself. Excepting my wife, no one knew that this was a goal I was pursuing. I only told a few people about it prior to the actual day and even they were only told a week before.
Four reasons to keep your goals a secret
When setting a goal for yourself, especially if it’s exciting, you want to share it with everyone you encounter. You want to shout it from the rooftops. But, I strongly encourage against that. Especially if it’s something with a lot of uncertainty attached to it.
That said, here are four reasons why you should keep your goal a secret.
1. Changes are a hassle
This first reason is more of a headache-preventer than anything else. Simply, if you share your goal with everyone before it’s made real, it can be a serious pain to backtrack on it if things change. For instance, with my tattoo:
- If the artist was no longer available that day;
- Or I decided to back out;
- Or I settled on a different design;
- I would have had to then update every single person that I had already told.
That, or I would have been bombarded with “how’d it go?!” texts that I would have had to deal with. So from a mere hassle-reduction perspective, you’re better off keeping it to yourself.
2. You’re going to get unwanted opinions
Before we had our daughter, my wife and I openly shared the name we were going to give her.
We wanted to get as much feedback and receive as many reactions as possible. That way, if there was a weird thing she could be made fun of in school, we could either prepare her for it ahead of time or decide on a different name before she was born.
In that case, it was helpful to get insight from others.
In terms of your goals though, it’s almost like you already had the baby. Fully named but still entirely vulnerable, it’s very new and easy to break. If you share your goal too soon, you risk getting unwarranted opinions that may cause you to second-guess or quit before it’s even teething.
3. Too happy too soon
It feels good to tell people about the things you’re working on. It lights up those pleasure centers in your brain. However, that can be problematic if done too early.
It turns out that telling people about your goals feels just as good as actually reaching them. So by sharing too soon, you end up feeling good before doing any of the work. Then when the work doesn’t feel as good, you drop the goal altogether.
Avoid that trap. Instead, keep it to yourself until you have something tangible to share.
4. Avoid judgmental questions
A new goal rarely ends the same as it starts. At least in my case.
When I set a goal, it often changes a great deal in the first few weeks. That’s because I’m still finding the right fit for it. I may set a goal to read 50 pages a day, but after three days may realize that’s too much, so I change it.
I may then try five pages a day and find that it’s not enough. Eventually, I end up finding the right fit, but until then there’s a lot of trial and error.
A sample conversation
If you share your goal with someone too early, before a balance has been struck, you’re going to get a lot of judgemental questions and comments. For example, something like this:
“How’s reading been? 50 pages a day, right?”
“Oh, ya, it’s going ok. I actually changed it to five recently. 50 was too much.”
“Only five? Huh.”
Then a week later:
“Hey, how’s five pages a day going?”
“Oh… ummm… I actually changed it to 12. Five wasn’t enough.”
“12? Huh. I have a friend that reads 30 pages a day.”
Avoid the judgmental huh’s. Keep it to yourself until you’re confident in what you’re doing.
When is the right time to share?
In what I call the plane ticket moment, there is a point where you will become so confident in what you’re doing that it no longer matters who you tell, you’ll be working on that goal no matter what.
Like when you buy a plane ticket.
Before the ticket, you just have an idea of a trip you want to take. Once you buy that ticket though, you’re going. So once you feel like you’re fully committed to the goal, feel free to share. However, the larger you deem the goal, the longer you should wait to tell people.
For me, the tattoo was a big deal.
So, I waited to tell people until a couple of days after it was already done. I didn’t want any last-minute “opinions” getting in my head. I wanted that thing on my arm before sharing the news.
One reason to share early
I alluded to it earlier with my daughter, but I’ll clarify here. If you want feedback, if you want unsolicited opinions for whatever reason, feel free to share your goal early with the world. If you want to spread the news to:
- See how people react;
- Gain insight from others;
- Or clarify your thinking, go for it.
Be aware though, I rarely if ever do this and don’t normally recommend it. However, some goals may benefit from early sharing (like getting a pet).
Keep your goals a secret moving forward
You will benefit greatly by keeping your goals to yourself. In fact, you ensure goal success that much more by doing so.
The temptation to share will always be present. Push back against it. If it helps, notice your friends and family. The ones that talk about their goals before having taken any real steps. Do they achieve them?
Or does it end up being all talk?
Let their shortcomings remind you to stay quiet until the time is right.