Tip #3: Don’t tell anyone about your goals

in writing •  10 months ago


Here is the third of ten tips to help you set the right goals and actually achieve them. You can find the first two tips here:

I used to think that telling others about my goals was key to my success. After all, if I kept my goals secret, who would hold me accountable for following through?

Yet as much as I bought into the motivational power of the “fear of public failure,” the thought of announcing my intentions to the world — or even a few trusted friends — has always made me uncomfortable.

For one thing, saying that I’m going to accomplish something big (like writing a novel) feels a bit too boastful, a little too arrogant.

For another, there was always the chance that I’d share my biggest goal with someone and they’d respond with visible skepticism about my odds of success. Or straight up tell me I was chasing a pipe dream.

If you’re the type of person who is driven by the desire to prove others wrong, you might find this kind of thing motivating. I’m not that person. So I’ve always kind of hated the idea of making my goals public, even though I believed it was the right thing to do.

But then I watched this TED Talk, where Derek Stivers says telling people about our goals might not be a good strategy after all. Because the good feeling we get from telling others about our goals makes us less likely to actually do the work to achieve them.

Think about that for a second. If you set a New Year’s resolution this past month, did you tell anyone about it? How did that make you feel? And how much have you actually done toward your goal?

This doesn’t mean you have to keep your goals entirely hush-hush. But if you must tell someone, Stivers says not to tell them what you’re going to achieve. Tell them about the work you need to do to achieve it.

And make sure you’re telling the right people. Tell somebody who really is going to hold you to account. Tell somebody who is already doing the thing you want to do. Tell someone who's job it is to motivate you. Tell someone who has a stake in your success.

Image courtesy of Storyblocks.com

Follow @redhens to see the remaining 7 tips as they're posted, as well as other advice to help you improve your writing.

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I agree, if you decide you are going to tell someone your goals, make sure they are the right people. The ones who will argue with you about your goals are usually not going to help motivate you to achieve them either, so leave them out of it.

I do the same thing when I'm working on a story - I try to keep it tightlipped so that my reward is finishing the story itself, not telling someone my awesome cool idea. It can be fun to share with people, but ultimately a waste of energy that can be used for actually doing the -thing- itself. Thanks for the post.


Great point — conserve your energy for the real work. 🙂

Hi Redhens, interesting article, it reminded me of this thought I had once about how when I get very excited about an idea of something I want to do, I throw myself into the planning and usually discuss it to great lengths with a particular friend. What tends to happen is that I feed out all of my enthusiasm, all of my ideas and then not follow through and accomplish. I'm not sure why at the end the enthusiasm drops off and I move on to something else. I'm not a fickle person (though I do sound it!! ;))

These days, I just confide my goals to my cat...She's the one who is not waiting for me to fail.
Have a happy day. Regards @averageoutsider

Great post and great advice. I am a huge fan of Derek Sivers, so I clicked the link....404! Here is the TED talk - https://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_keep_your_goals_to_yourself

I have been following this advice for a while now. I write down my goals in a notepad, and create affirmations around them. That becomes my first part of my journal and then I write what ever comes to me.

Keep up the great posts!