When you finally make plans to improve some aspect of your life, your first thought is usually that you should tell someone. Whether that’s a new eating habit, exercise routine or target GPA, it’s fun to let others in on your new decision. It can make you feel like you have a community around you and are one step closer to your goal.
In all honesty, for the sake of accomplishing your goal, you should probably just keep it to yourself.
Peter Gollwitzer, a professor in the psychology department at New York University said telling someone about what you plan to do can actually make you less likely to accomplish your goal.
Generally, there are a few steps or actions you have to take in order to reach your goal and feel satisfied, but Gollwitzer says simply talking about the end result can give you similar feelings of satisfaction. This premature satisfaction can stunt your desire to take any real action towards accomplishing your goal and make you less likely to attain it.
In 1926 Kurt Lewin, the founder of social psychology, called this phenomena substitution. He said one can substitute what he called a lesser activity, such as talking, for a greater activity, such as doing, and feel the same psychological satisfaction one would have felt from doing the greater activity. That is why you get such a good feeling out of sharing your New Year’s resolutions, and also why they are rarely ever accomplished.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a good way to share goals. People often share their hopes for the future with friends or family in an effort to find some kind of accountability. You can still do so without fear of losing your drive to accomplish.
In a TED talk on this topic called “Keep your goals to yourself,” Entrepreneur Derek Sivers said if you want to talk about your goals without lessening your chances of accomplishing them, phrasing is key.
“If you do need to talk about something, you can state it in a way that gives you no satisfaction,” Sivers said. His method involved letting them know what you still need to do in order to reach your goal and asking them to kick your butt if you don’t do it.
However, that means that proudly posting a list of goals on social media is probably not the best option, especially since the positive feedback of likes, retweets and comments can bolster the false feelings of satisfaction. Even just talking about your goals among friends can be dangerous unless you are intentionally seeking advice and/or accountability to help you accomplish them.
In the end, it’s probably best to try and keep your goals to yourself until you have finished them. Then, when you tell people about them, they can celebrate with you and add to your happiness at having accomplished your goals rather than give you empty satisfaction before you even start.
Rebecca Fedorko is a junior journalism major from Buda. She is a reporter for the Lariat.