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3 science-backed reasons why sharing your goals publicly makes you less likely to succeed

Do you want to succeed?

Of course, you do.

And what would be more important to success than “goals?”

Set goals. Short-term goals. Long-term goals.

For the most part, the habit of goal-setting is crucial if you want to succeed in life. No one argues with that.

But there’s one way you can do it wrong:

According to science, sharing your goals is a big contributor to your failure.

Here are some science-backed reasons why you need to keep your goals to yourself.

1. Receiving praise “early” affects your motivation to follow through.

NYU’s 2009 research was one of the first to delve into the negative impact of goal-sharing.

Peter Gollwitzer and his team found that even as simple as sharing your goal publicly already results in doing less work for it. 

How?

The act of telling people what you want to achieve already gives you a sense of completeness. 

According to the researchers:

“Other people’s taking notice of one’s identity-relevant intentions apparently engenders a premature sense of completeness regarding the identity goal.”

And successful people definitely agree.

In Derek Sivers, CD Baby founder’s TED talk, the businessman says:

“Imagine their congratulations and their high image of you. Doesn’t it feel good to say it out loud? Don’t you feel one step closer already? Like, it’s already becoming part of your identity?

“Well, bad news. You should have kept your mouth shut. That good feeling makes you less likely to do it.”

When you share your goal, your brain registers a psychological reward that you only get when you’ve completed a goal. Only this time, it’s fake.

So if you really want to do something, and want to be motivated, don’t talk about it – just do it.

2. “Person praise” versus “process praise.”

When you share a goal, you’ll more than likely receive praise for it.

But be careful, there’s a harmful kind of praise.


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One research study from Reed College explored the effects of different types of praise when it comes to motivation.

These are:

  • Person praise: Feedback about an individual.
  • Process praise: Feedback about the method undertaken.
  • No praise: No feedback at all.

The researchers concluded that person praise is less motivating than process praise. 

It means that being praised for what you’ve done is more motivating than simply being praised for what you are.

The researchers wrote:

“Results indicated that process praise enhances intrinsic motivation and perceived competence more than person praise, and that these effects vary as students advance toward their degree.”

Praise is only meaningful and motivating when they are about what you’ve achieved, not about what you are planning to achieve.

3. Negative feedback stops you from even trying.

Sharing your goals publicly opens you up for criticism – criticism that could stop you from pursuing your goals.

Ayelet Fishbach, professor at the University of Chicago conducted a study exploring the effects of negative and positive feedback in terms of pursuing goals.

She and her team found two things:

  1. When positive feedback is about the commitment to a goal, it helps increase motivation.
  2. On the other hand, when positive feedback signals progress, it decreases motivation instead.

More importantly, the researchers found that people are less likely to stick to a goal when they receive negative feedback from the very beginning.

It’s better not to risk feedback — positive or otherwise.

Working in silence is still the best way to make sure you are focused and motivated in achieving your goals.

Takeaway

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.”

– Mandy Hale

Would you rather be:

a) someone who makes goals and tells everyone? or;

b) someone who makes goals and works hard silently?

The truth is, sharing your goals isn’t necessary. At most, only the most important people in your life should be privy to what you’re trying to achieve.

Goal-sharing only distracts you from the real goal. And that is to focus on completing your goals.

You don’t owe anyone any explanations. Just work hard in silence, and let your achievements speak for yourself.

Notable replies

  1. I think this makes a lot of sense. I remember developing a sense of identity through my big goals for Ideapod. It would have certainly given me a number of dopamine hits. Now, I feel like I’m making progress by keeping my goals to myself and just slowly working on it step by step.

  2. Well now, what are the politicians supposed to say as they run for office? Speak the truth and fail, lie and win?

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Written by Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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