If you’ve read any personal growth books, you’ll no doubt have picked up a common theme regarding having goals.
It’s important to have goals so that you know what you are striving for, so that you are emotionally invested in the journey towards the goal, and that you can then recognise opportunities when they present themselves that can expedite your progress.
- Doesn’t it feel good to tell other people about your lofty goals?
- Isn’t it great how that goal almost becomes a part of your identity when you tell others about it?
- How good does it feel to be validated by your friends and family for having such a noble goal?
A few studies suggest that the bad news is…that good feeling you had as a result of telling people suggests that you are now less inclined to do it.
Telling someone your goal makes them less likely to happen.
Anytime you have a goal in mind, you’ll normally have a number of steps that need to be completed in order to achieve what you want, and in most cases you won’t feel a sense of satisfaction until you have completed the work.
When you tell someone about your goal and that person acknowledges your goal, giving you a sense of satisfaction, in many cases your mind is tricked into believing that its become a reality. This is what is known as a Social Reality or Substitution in Social Psychology. Your mind cannot differentiate between talking and doing.
Because you have felt this level of satisfaction and gratification before you have completed your goal, you are then less likely to feel as compelled to continue with your goal.
All of this may run in opposition to what we are normally told to do: Tell your Friends your goals so that they can hold you to them.
Peter Gollwitzer in 2009 conducted a study whereby 163 people were asked to write down their personal goal on paper. Afterwards half of the group verbalised their commitment to the goal. The entire group was then asked to complete a set of tasks for 45 mins that linked into their goals, and everyone was told they could stop working at anytime.
On average the people that kept their goals to themselves, worked for the entire 45 mins, and felt they had more work to go in order to achieve their goals.
Others that announced their goals to the group before starting the tasks, on average worked for 33 minutes, and suggested that they felt a lot closer to achieving this goals.
So if Social Reality can actually inhibit your chances of success, then what can you do?
If you are strongly compelled to tell someone about your goals, then simply tell them in a manner whereby you will not get satisfaction from their response.
“John, I’m going to go to the gym 3 days a week for the next 3 months, and if I don’t I want you to kick my butt, ok?”