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Sharing Your Goal Will Reduce Your Chance of Reaching It

Sharing Your Goal Will Reduce Your Chance of Reaching It

This time, it’s going to work. You’re going to achieve your goal. You announce your plan on Facebook. People know what you’re doing. Failure means humiliation. A couple months later, someone asks how your goal is coming along. You mumble an excuse for why you didn’t make it. Other tasks took priority.You haven’t been feeling so good lately. You just plumb forgot about it.

But you know the truth. You lost motivation. What looked like a 400 meter sprint turned out to be a 10 mile marathon. It’s just not fun anymore. You justify quitting and announce a new goal.This time, it’s going to work. But probably not.

Announcing goals is exciting. It feels like you’ve just achieved something big. You talk about what you’re going to do and everyone pats you on the back. The grander the scheme that you dream up, the more excited people get for you. Sharing your goals with the world gives you that positive feedback and validation that you so desperately crave. And that’s exactly why you don’t want to share them.

Sharing Goals Creates an Illusion of Progress

In 2009, NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer conducted four tests in a German university. The purpose: find out how likely we are to achieve our goals after we share them.

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Gollwitzer set up four different tests, consisting of 163 psychology and law students. After each person wrote down a personal goal, half of them were to announce their commitment to the room, while the other half did not. All the students were given 45 minutes to work on their goals, and were told that they could stop at any time. The students that​ didn’t​ announce their goals worked the entire 45 minutes on average, and felt that they had a long way to go before their goal would be achieved. The students who did announce their goals only worked 33 minutes on average, and felt they were much closer to achieving their goals.

Is it possible that the latter group worked harder than the other? Could this be why they feel closer to their goal? Sure, that’s possible. But it’s also obvious that this group had better things to do. This group assumed it was a done deal, while the former group took on a more realistic viewpoint. Who would you bet on?

Sharing Goals Steals Your Motivation

Whether you’re looking to become a lawyer or a better parent, your brain looks for indicators that you’re moving along. According to Gollwitzer, these indicators are calledidentity symbols.

From research article, ‘When Intentions Go Public’:

Positive self-descriptions made in public qualify as powerful identity symbols (Gollwitzer, Wicklund, & Hilton, 1982), and having an audience for behavioral intentions that specify the successful performance of an identity-relevant activity should have the same symbolic impact.

Saying you’re going to do something creates the same identity symbols you’d get from actually doing it. If you say you’re going to become a great lawyer, get the body of a fitness model, or become the world’s greatest Candy Crush player, your brain already feels like you’re there. You’re going to sink back into your chair, pleased with your progress. You think about all the good things that are coming your way. Facebook just stole your motivation and you don’t even realize it.

Try TheseApproaches

How are you supposed to get motivated if you can’t talk about your goals?

Here’s an approach from NYU psychologist Gabriele Oettingen:

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What does work better is a hybrid approach that combines positive thinking with “realism.” Here’s how it works. Think of a wish. For a few minutes, imagine the wish coming true, letting your mind wander and drift where it will. Then shift gears. Spend a few more minutes imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your wish.

This simple process, which my colleagues and I call “mental contrasting,” has produced powerful results in laboratory experiments.

A compliment to mental contrasting is an accountability group. These are groups of people who are on the same journey as you. They understand the difficulties you face, and share in the joys of small victories. Make sure to join an accountability group that is specific to your goals. If weight loss is your goal, join a group of people who are all trying to lose weight.

Another option is to tempt your friends with the almighty dollar. You may have heard the story of the Las Vegas pit boss who offered a cash reward to anyone who caught him smoking. You don’t have to offer thousands of dollars; even $25 per workout missed is enough to tempt your friends and keep you in check.

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Final Thoughts

In September 2010, Derek Sivers presented a TED Talk called, “Keep your goals to yourself”. Although this video racked up 3.5 million views (and no doubt prompted many discussions), you still see many people announcing their goals on social media. Have you ever noticed that those people never seem to reach their goal? Are you one of them?

Do yourself a favor, and save the celebration for once you’ve made it.

Featured photo credit: Nancy G via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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