Friday, November 18, 2011

Why You Should Keep Your Goals Secret

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Search around for advice on how to commit to a goal and one commandment comes up again and again. Apparently you should make your goals public and this will increase your commitment to them.

In theory when you tell your friends that you intend to, say, dig over the garden, or quit smoking, or take up carpentry, it should increase your accountability. You've told a friend, so in theory you are more committed to it.

Also people like to remain self-consistent; it gives us a stronger sense of self. So if you didn't stick to your publicly stated goal it would damage your sense of self.

All these things are true in theory but what about in practice?


Unfortunately the mind sometimes has a nasty habit of sabotaging our best attempts to control ourselves. Recent research by Gollwitzer et al. (2010) suggests that, in fact, making our goals public can have precisely the opposite effect from what we intend.

Across three experiments the link between making goals public and actually working towards them was tested. What they found in every study was that when participants had shared their goal with someone else, instead of increasing their commitment, it reduced it.

When they had shared their goals with another, participants put less effort into studying, trying to get a job and taking advantage of opportunities for advancement. {Read on}