Worst Advice Ever: Keep Your Goals a Secret

Last year I wrote about a TEDGlobal video by Derek Sivers who said that the key to accomplishing goals is to keep them to yourself. He justifies this by referring to studies that suggest that telling people your goal makes it less likely to happen because we gain a sense of accomplishment by simply talking about it. Apparently we trick our minds into thinking it has already been done, and we then don't put forth the work necessary to accomplish the goal.

When I first watched the video I was only slightly uneasy about his message. I stated that it just didn't sit right with me, especially since in my experience the most important thing in accomplishing my goals has been the support of loved ones along the way. However, after reflecting on my experiences over the last several months I'm convinced that his message is a complete load of crap.

I have been through quite a few transitions in the last nine months and worked toward a lot of my goals. Moving (apartments) twice, starting this blog, switching careers, running a half marathon,  and raising money for Girls on the Run (GOTR) were the most notable of my experiences. Not a single one of them would've worked out as well as they did had I not opened my mouth and talked to people.

If I had not told everyone that I was in need of a place to live (twice), I would not have had coworkers provide me with the perfect living situation (twice). If I hadn't asked people for help with my resume and asked them to provide me with people to connect with in the nonprofit sector, I would've never found such a great opportunity for me to switch careers. If I had not chosen to tell everyone about why and how I wanted to raise $500 for GOTR, I would've never exceeded my goal and raised $1000 (on the dollar!).

I think you get my point.

So when I listen to Sivers talk about the following experiment that a psychologist named Peter Gollwitzer conducted, I can't help but think they missed something completely:

It goes like this: 163 people across four separate tests -- everyone wrote down their personal goal. Half of them announced their commitment to this goal to the room, and half didn't. Then everyone was given 45 minutes of work that would directly lead them towards their goal, but they were told that they could stop at any time. Now, those who kept their mouths shut worked the entire 45 minutes, on average, and when asked afterwards, said that they felt that they had a long way to go still to achieve their goal. But those who had announced it quit after only 33 minutes, on average, and when asked afterwards, said that they felt much closer to achieving their goal.

In the real world version of that experiment (in my head, of course), the group that only took 33 minutes felt done because someone they knew had already given them the tools, contacts and other resources they needed to move forward on their goal. The group that needed 45 minutes foolishly tried to accomplish everything on their own without having everything they needed to succeed.

Life is awesome like that. People like to help when they can if they believe that you are committed to what you're trying to accomplish. So speak up, put your hopes and dreams out into the universe and experience how amazing it is to get support from the unlikeliest of places. It's useless trying to get through life alone.