It’s a common misconception that telling your goals to the world can help you achieve them. People post weight loss goals all over social media, tell their travel plans to friends and family, and commit to things out loud all of the time without ever considering whether or not that will actually help them reach their goal.
Studies have emerged over the last decade that are showing the opposite might be true: if you want to succeed in life, stop telling everyone what you are going to work on.
Goals that have to do with changing who we see ourselves as, also known as identity goals, can be greatly influenced by other people’s perceptions of us.
For example, if you grew up wanting to be a lawyer, but your mother told you that you weren’t smart enough to be a lawyer, you might not pursue that dream because of what your mother said, even if you thought you were smart enough to get a law degree.
Instead, this body of research has shown that silently committing to oneself can have a greater impact on our ability to pursue identity goals than if you share them with the world.
External praise is poor motivator
When we work toward something that is important to us, and when we identify why it is important to us, we are more likely to succeed than if you are doing it for the external praise.
One study showed that when students were asked to write down their goals for the week on a piece of paper and hand it in to the researcher, those who were told the goals would be reviewed actually did less work to achieve those goals than those who were told the goals would remain confidential.
This goes against what many of us think: we get a lot of support from external sources about achieving our goals.
Have you ever told someone you wanted to earn extra money or lose 10 pounds? What was their reaction? I bet it was that making more money is hard or losing weight is impossible.
Sometimes, you just need to rely on yourself
There’s an element of competition and jealousy that arises when people proclaim their goals to the world: it makes others wonder why they aren’t achieving things too and they might even go so far as to try to sabotage your efforts as a way to make themselves look better.
Sounds trit but it’s true. If you asked a friend to start walking with you because you wanted to lose 30 pounds, and then your friend wasn’t losing weight but you were, you’ll probably see that friend drop off the radar or say things like “oh, we don’t need to walk this evening. It’s too cold out.”
Meanwhile, had you just committed to walk on your own, you wouldn’t have that outside influence eating up your energy or impacting your decision making.
Interesting, right? So the next time you want to set a goal for yourself, ask yourself who you are doing it for, what you want to get out of it, and why you are doing it.
You might be surprised to learn that you can lean on yourself when you need to get things done in life, even though humans are pretty accustomed to leaning on each other.
Everything you need to achieve your goals is within your reach, you just might need to push some people out of the way to reach them.