Is Keeping Your Goal a Secret Really the Key to Success?

Have you ever had a goal for yourself that you announced to the world (or a few friends) yet never accomplished? Like that time you decided you wanted to lose ten pounds so you bought a treadmill that was eventually used to hang laundry? Or that new kitchen set you bought to cook healthier meals but never used?

Apparently you are far from alone. According to Derek Sivers in the TEDGlobal video below, psychologists have proven time and time again that you essentially trick your brain into thinking you’ve accomplished a goal once you’ve shared it with others.

After watching this video and hearing about the studies conducted, something didn’t sit right with me. And maybe my denial simply comes from the fact that I’m a person who openly shares my goals with friends and family when I want to accomplish them. Yet while I would definitely say that I’ve had my share of failures, I hesitate to link those failures to my decision to communicate those goals.

I think personality types play a significant role in the goal setting process. I’d like to think that if Sivers had more than the three minutes he used to speak he might’ve even touched on this. I don’t have science to back this up, but I find it hard to believe that the results of these studies would be the same if you compared personality types. I’m a highly self-motivated person. I’m not driven by competition with others or, for the most part, what others think of the accomplishment of my goal. My goals are more often than not set up to prove something to myself. However, I don’t keep them to myself because the encouragement I receive from family and friends is really important to me, especially when things aren’t looking so great.

So yes, it does feel good to share your goals with other people. Yes, you definitely do feel like you are taking one step closer and that it’s more of a reality that it was before. However, I think this is where you have to make a conscious decision that your goal means a lot to you and accomplishing it is something you are serious about. Rather than falling into the trap these studies have shown that talking about your goals leads to, take some time to reflect on your situation to ensure that you reach your destination.

And maybe after seeing this video you’ll decide that you no longer want to share your goals. Or maybe you’ll decide that you will only share certain goals. For instance, I would imagine that there is difference between communicating long-term versus short-term goals. I could see long-term goals, presumably more lofty in nature, being achieved less often than short-term goals that may be practical in nature and even sub-goals of a long-term goal.

Whatever it is you decide to do, focus on your goal, determine how you intend to get there and hold yourself accountable; and if you decide to share your goal with someone, so be it. Just don’t let your mind “mistake the talking for the doing.”

Check out the video below to see Derek Sivers' talk on