Studies show that sharing your goals hurts your chances to acheive them.
One of my largest goals for 2020 is to not share my goals. Which feels a bit like talking about fight club, which breaks many rules of fight club. However, in deciding how to approach the new year and the aspirations I have to accomplish, they’re quite formidable.
Now that I’ve been writing books for several years and released my debut novel in November, the threshold to expand the books I offer, and my readership to continue to the life-long goal of only writing fiction for a living. As I took the holiday break to restructure, I thought about how much at conventions and with fellow authors I would share. However, the results didn’t match up to my goals. I’ll be the first to say I am a very optimistic creator, so I try not to beat myself up over it. Having said that, I wondered if there was any sort of correlation.
Sure enough, there’s a ton of evidence to suggest that sharing your goals can cause significant issues with getting them done. But why?
Let’s start with the science behind it. Achieving goals releases dopamine. It’s why you feel so great cominig back from the gym. You did something and your body releases chemicals to celebrate that accomplishment. However, talking about your goals with others does a similar thing. It’s not as monumental as doing the actual thing you’re aiming to accomplish. But it can act as a substitute. It makes you feel like you’ve done something toward accomplishing your goals, even though all you’ve done is talk about it and have taken no action toward tangibly making it happen.
It’s why if you talk about writing your latest book with a ton of friends, you may find your wordcount is low or non-existent. You have to stop talking about what you will do and instead, really do it.
Your brain is triggering a mental reward for talking about your aspirations. It’s no fun, but speaking about your goals causes the brain to trick you into thinking you’re taking action, when in reality you’re not doing anything real against your goals.
Psychology Today did a great dive into explaining the dopamine issue that comes up from sharing your goals. They explain how when you talk with others about your resolutions, people will encourage you, lift you up. Of course they will, they’re in your life to make you feel better about your decisions in life.
As Marwa Azab Ph.D. explains in her article, “The more others admire our goals, the more dopamine rush we get, and the less likely we are to execute the future necessary actions to implement them. Therefore we deplete our ‘feel good’ gas, keeping us from reaching our final destination: our goal. Furthermore, publicizing our intention to succeed gives us a ‘premature sense of completeness.’ It signals the brain to move on.”
Make a list of your goals, but share them with no one. It will make your brain desire the “feel good gas” Marwa mentioned. You’ll be left wanting more, and in the right way because it will drive you to accomplish your goal!
But what if my goal requires other people or advice?
If you’re completely transforming your life to change your nutrition, or haven’t worked out at a gym in years, you don’t want to grab a barbell and hope you don’t put too much weight on or throw your back out. You need guidance. You have to know what door is right for you and your goals.
This is where sharing is important. A nutrionist or fitness trainer will give you the right motivation. They’ll congratulate you for taking the next step, but rather than leaving it at applause and adoration, they’ll follow up with real steps in order to make a real change.
The same with creating great art or finally writing that novel you have the idea for. Don’t isolate yourself in a room and think you’ll figure out how to create that great work of art or write the great American novel. No one writes their book in one draft and then the agent and fame finds them! You need mentors, conferences, books on craft. The key is to have someone who can give you enough encouragement to believe you can accomplish what you’ve set your mind to, but push you toward the next steps.
A good mentor lifts you up because they struggled to get started themselves, but they’ll tell you the reality of what it takes to succeed.
Therein lies the balance. Don’t share your goals on social media, or the next time you’re out with friends, unless you are looking for someone to mentor you or guide you. Because then, you’ll avoid receiving that false equivalence of accmoplishing the goals you’ve set out to achieve.
Follow me on social @thomasafowler, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thank you and good luck with your goals!