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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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Reader Comments (8)

makes sense. energy can be dispersed by talking. the reason we talk about our troubles is to disperse the energy. the same can happen to our motivation. we talk it to death.
great post.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersamthor

I SO agree with the idea that it's much more important to do things -- to show people -- than it is to say you're going to do something. That being said, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to share your goals with others. I think you can get a lot of support and encouragement from other people (and this is coming from someone who is pretty independent and doesn't necessary want to rely on others for anything). I suppose, like most things, a balance is the best way to go.

Positively Present

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPositively Present


Thanks for your thoughts - the last thing I want to do with my motivation is talk it to death.

May 6, 2009 | Registered CommenterAnanga

I can see how this can become a problem. If you seek approval of others then you truely have not reach your true self. Approval of yourself should always be more accomadating than approval of others.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTija


Thanks for your comment, my thoughts entirely. If we are not actively living our values then we are not congruent and that doesn't feel good.

May 7, 2009 | Registered CommenterAnanga

Wow, interesting idea and completely contrary to my belief in putting goals out to the universe so they will manifest. Thanks for sharing.

@ Hypnotransformations

Maybe we need both - the law of attraction and plenty of action :-)

thanks for commenting

May 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterAnanga

I think for some goals, you should, some not.

You may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and has time tracking. It's clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

May 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterharry

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