A smile works its way across your face. Your heart beats a little faster, your hands begin to sweat with excitement. You finish typing, lean back in your chair, and review the goal you just set for yourself.
Do 100 crunches a day, five days a week.
It’s going to be tough, but you don’t mind tough. Tough is nothing. You’ve done much more challenging things in your life and this will be no different. You’re proud of your goal and now eagerly look forward to starting on it first thing in the morning.
But morning is still so far away and you want to keep your smile going.
So you decide to call up your parents and tell them about the transformation your body is about to undergo. After all, you’ll soon have the highly sought-after six-pack and you want them to witness greatness in the making.
Only, you never get that six-pack. In fact, you only make it a few days before you replace crunches with sleeping in.
What went wrong?
The drive to achieve your goals
Several years ago, I came across this TED Talk by Derek Sivers. In it, he explains that when you tell someone your goal, it feels good. And that good feeling comes about even though you’ve yet to achieve anything.
Your mind doesn’t recognize the difference. It just knows that something good is happening.
And because you feel good, your mind no longer deems working on your goal necessary. After all, happiness was what you were after in the first place, right? And you feel plenty happy now, right? So why do more work than you have to?
In reality though, you haven’t done anything of value. You’re just experiencing inflated happiness without doing any of the work. And that’s not going to help you finish your crunches.
*Note: If you are ready to (finally) achieve your goals, enroll in my goal success program here.
If you must share, do this
To ensure that you achieve your highest ambitions, you are better off keeping the goal to yourself. Or, if you must share, don’t brag about the end result. Instead, talk about the actions you are taking to achieve your aim.
For instance – I’ve been doing 100 crunches a day, five days a week and for whatever reason, whenever I get to number 30 I lose momentum.
But as soon as I make it to 55, I get a second wind and am able to finish strong.
See the difference between that example and just flat out exclaiming that you’re going to do 100 crunches a day? The latter is a boast that will undeservingly make you feel good. The former is a reminder that what you’re doing is tough.
The latter gives you the happiness you wanted and thus reduces your need to keep going.
The former reminds you that what you’re doing is hard, but good things will come from it. Thus, you retain the drive to preserve.
Am I an outlier?
I highly recommend you check out Derek’s talk. It’s thoughtful and succinct at just three minutes long.
In considering his insights though, I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. Because, through the nature of this blog, I talk about my goals a lot. Actually, not just a lot. All the time. I:
- Write about them
- Chat with people about them
- Do monthly reports on them
- And even have a specific page that showcases the goals I’m working on right now
In theory, then, I should be a goal failure. I’m openly sharing my aims and should be falling short because of it. And yet… I’m not… I’m achieving all of my ten+ goals as of this writing.
So what gives?
I’m going to achieve it no matter what
It’s a great question. And, not being a researcher or data scientist by any means, I can really only base it off of my own anecdotal experience.
That said, I’ve noticed that there is a certain point when I’m working on a goal where, no matter what, I know that I’ll follow through with it. Regardless of whether I keep it to myself or tell thousands of people, nothing would change.
I’m going to achieve that goal. It’s the plane ticket moment.
The plane ticket moment
If I brag about going to Europe before buying a plane ticket, the odds of me actually going on that trip are low. It’s exactly what Derek highlights in his Talk; I feel good about sharing my travel goal and, consequently, my urge to travel diminishes.
However, when I buy that plane ticket, I’m going.
Because for me to feel comfortable purchasing a ticket, I’ll first need to:
- Research the country I want to visit (ex. Italy)
- List out the excursions and sights I want to see
- Then go ahead and make the purchase
And so when I get to that point, when the ticket’s been secured, my going to Italy is nearly guaranteed. I’m fully committed.
It’s not about travel though
That same idea can be applied to any goal you pursue, not just travel. If I want to read two books a month (something I’ve been successfully tackling this year), I’ll keep it to myself until I feel fully confident in my ability to achieve it.
Until I essentially buy my ticket; a feeling that varies by goal.
Looking at my reading goal, for instance, that’s an example where I started telling people about it before I had even finished my first month of reading. Yet I did so because I felt confident in the progress I was making thus far and wasn’t concerned about the potential of quitting.
I knew that I would consistently achieve that goal each month.
Other goals, however, I’ve been much more secretive about – not telling anyone (aside from my wife) until several weeks or months have passed and I’ve achieved something significant. For instance, when I ran my first half marathon I practically told no one about it until I had already finished it.
I did so because I was worried that telling people would prevent my likelihood of making it happen.
When is the right time to share?
Moving forward, then, there is certainly a middle ground between openly sharing your goals and keeping them to yourself. However, before discussing your aims, be sure to feel confident in your abilities.
Buy your plane ticket before bragging that you’re going to Europe.
Even though Europe’s wonderful, you’re better off keeping the news to yourself until you have solidified your commitment.
A final note on sharing your goals
One last thing I need to touch on is that you may feel the urge to share your goal with someone because you think it will help you “stay accountable.”
Especially because that indicates to me that you aren’t confident in your abilities yet and will likely succumb to the good feelings associated with telling others. So keep it to yourself until you have your plane ticket moment.
*Note: Accountability is a powerful tool so long as you work with someone that knows what they’re doing. A close friend will coddle you – even if they say they won’t.
If accountability is something you need help with, I offer it through my goal success program.