Should You Keep Your Goals to Yourself?

It's natural to want to share your goals and aspirations with your friends, but recent research suggests that doing so may not be helpful in actually achieving them. Peter Gollwitzer a professor of psychology at New York University has been looking into what happens when we share our intentions and he's concluded that it doesn't necessarily motivate us to manifest our plans.

Following experiments in goal sharing he concludes that we may be set back in achieving our aims due to a "a premature sense of completeness" about them.

"We always think that if we talk about our intentions, we'll feel obligated to enact them . . . But when it comes to identity goals, our (study's) message is: don't make them public."

The problem seems to occur when we share our positive intentions and then feel that those intentions have been validated simply by sharing them. Gollwitzer uses the example of a mother who shares her aspirations for her children with her friends. When she outlines her plans her friends nod and express appreciation for her good intentions. Just by sharing her goal of being a good mother she has won approval in advance before she took action, according to Gollwitzer's study Gollwitzer. "The chances are high that she won't do as much as she could to achieve those goals because she's already viewed as an ideal mother just by sharing her wonderful intentions."

He explains that our intentions operate as a means to get the identity we want, but if we share them in advance and get the identity first by the passive acknowledgement of others we are less likely to take the action necessary to truly possess our values.

This is an important lesson in personal congruency and the old saying that "actions speak louder than words." If we are receiving external validation but we know deep down that it conflicts with what we are actually doing we develop a fissure of personal discontentment. We want to be seen to do something that we feel is important but we are slacking because we are not acting to uphold that value. This can have a negative impact on our self-respect and personal effectiveness in living our values. The message? Wherever possible don't say it, do it.


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Photo by Llima


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