Right & Wrong Goals Title

Right and Wrong Goals Video:

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Right and Wrong Goals Transcript:

How can you become the best version of yourself?  Especially if you are a college student or recent college grad, what do you think would the best way to ensure you become the person you want to become?

You might think it would help to announce it to the world.  You put it out there and share it with everyone.  Then some of those people might be able to help you make it happen.  At minimum, most will become cheerleaders for you.

But there’s a right and a wrong way to go about doing this. 

Last week, I shared that I’m a big fan of goals but I wondered why most people aren’t.  So I started digging into anti-goal materials.  Last week, I talked about making small improvements rather than setting goals and brought out my love for math.  This week, I’m bringing out my background in psychology research to share the wrong and the right way to announce your goals to the world according to research.

I discovered some research that states that if you tell other people your goals, you’re LESS likely to achieve them. Especially if your goals are identity goals.  Identity goals are goals that ultimately influence who you are.  They can include career choices, hobbies, parenthood, and a key volunteer position.  Let’s say you want to be an author.  The minute you tell someone about becoming an author, you might notice you lose the motivation you had to get started with writing.

This 1 research study suggests that talking about identity goals, especially in public, can have the reverse effect you hope.  The researchers found those who didn’t tell anyone about their career dreams made progress in the short term whereas those who did tell someone didn’t.  The idea is that if you tell someone you want to be an entrepreneur, in your mind you already are one to a certain extent so now you don’t have to try as hard to become an entrepreneur.

The conclusion of 1 writer on this concept is this:

“So when you are just starting out on the road toward a big undertaking, it is probably best to let your actions express your intentions louder than your words.”

I went back to the original research. 

Here are some key points from the original paper:

  • Goal achievement is complicated. There are various factors that can affect whether you reach your goals or not.
  • Sharing your behavior-specific goals to people who will support you can help you.  The behavior-specific goals need to be important in and of themselves and not a means to a larger end.  For example, if you tell your spouse you want to go to the gym 3 times per week,  him knowing makes you more likely to go.
  • Sharing your goals in more general terms is when you allow for substitution of talk for actions.  For example, if you tell your spouse you want to be a fit, healthy person, you’re actually less likely to go to the gym.  Just by telling your spouse you want to be fit and healthy, your mind already starts to think you are.  There’s a “premature sense of completeness.”
  • Some of the researchers’ ideas for how to avoid “premature sense of completeness” toward your identity goals include:
    • allowing norms to pressure you to consistency. If all your friends are fit and healthy. If it’s considered normal in your social sphere, you’ll feel the pressure to do the same.
    • being more specific so that those you tell can keep you accountable to the specifics.   For example, you say, “I’m going to go to the gym 3 times a week so that I can be fit and healthy.”  Then your spouse can say, “Did you go to the gym 3 times this week? Are you getting more fit and healthy?”  Both questions are important because the 2nd can help you identify other behavior-specific goals that would be helpful too.  For example, if you go to the gym but eat a gallon of ice cream every day, you’re probably not becoming more fit and healthy.
    • creating a plan for how to become the identity you seek.  This goes well with the last point.  If you want to be fit and healthy, you would do well to make a comprehensive plan that involves exercise, nutrition, and distressing activities.
    • emphasizing your commitment to your identity goal rather than your progress toward it might help you strive more. This one is all about phrasing.  “I’m going to go to the gym 3 times a week so that I can be fit and healthy.” demonstrates your commitment.  ““I intend to go to the gym 3 times a week like fit and healthy people do.” is closer to the premature sense of completeness you want to avoid.


A Word of Warning

Just by reading this post, you might get a premature sense of completeness.  Don’t.  Instead take action.  Sign up for our upcoming webinar about setting and accomplishing goals as an entrepreneur.  In this webinar, you’ll learn how the things I talked about today apply to your business, join us for Overflow Your Performance Review (for Entrepreneurs!).

Click here for webinar details.