Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why I keep my goals a secret

photo by borghetti

Some people say one way to help achieve your goals is to share them with others. When you share your goals, you gain others' support and encouragement. While this support would seem beneficial, I haven't always found this to be. As a matter of fact, unless I'm sharing my goals with someone specifically so they can keep me accountable, I've found the opposite to be true. I lose motivation to work towards my goals.

In high school, I became really excited about building a Tesla coil. I did online research, bookmarking a number of pages I was going to use as references; I started collecting plastic 2-liter bottles to build a salt water capacitor; and I made the mistake of telling everyone about my Tesla coil goal. After the initial excitement wore off and the hard work hit, I lost my motivation. Everyone already knew what I was going to do and had praised me for it, so why did I actually have to build it?

Fast forward six years. Nearly everyone I'd told had forgotten about my Tesla coil endeavors, but my references were still bookmarked in my browser and I still wanted to build the coil. With a nearly completed engineering degree, machine shop, and time at my disposal, I was also better equipped to take on the more difficult aspects of design and construction. I started working again towards my goal, but this time, I didn't announce it like I had before. When people asked what I was up to, I would tell them I was working on an electronics project, but not go into much detail. While I did update my progress on my blog and outline some of my goals there, I wrote mostly about what I had already accomplished and couldn't receive the same sort of support or approval as I would telling someone in person. As I neared the completion of the coil, I began telling people about my project. At this point, however, I had the momentum needed to see the project through to completion.

As it turns out, psychologists have looked at how telling others about your goals affects your motivation to achieve them. It is believed that by telling another about your intentions, you achieve part of your 'identity goal' simply by talking about it.

I enjoy telling others about what I hope to accomplish. I've also gained valuable insight from people who have already achieved goals I am pursuing. However, I've found it's in my best interest to let my actions do most of the talking.


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