Find your goals and stay shut if you want to achieve them

You got some goals, eh? You read my blog posts about my goals for 2016, and how you should set up your own? Good. Now keep your mouth shut, because science b*tch.

Don’t get me wrong. You should still follow the guidelines laid forth in the second link above, and get started. Search within yourself, figure out what you want to achieve, and write whatever goals you find down somewhere – preferrably on a piece of paper, i.e. not in a note on your iPhone.

Announcing your intention to do something decreases the likelihood that you’ll follow through and actually do it. At first this might not make any sense – like, you proclaimed your goal to the world and now everybody knows it and you can therefore do nothing else than follow through, because, you know, accountability and stuff. Right?

It could make sense to tell a close friend or family member, but think about this for a brief second; when was the last time they actually helped you and kept you accountable? When was the last time you got a phone call from your friend, asking you how your goals were moving along? IF you got such a friend, it might be beneficial to tell him/her. But keep it quiet between you guys, and realize what happens when you tell others about your goals.

Intention-Behavior Gap is the buzz word in this post. Peter M. Gollwitzer, Paschal Sheeran, Verena Michalski and Andrea E. Seifert completed a research within the field of psychology in 2009, where they closely examined this term. The research paper is an exciting read (occupational hazard maybe), and it found some very interesting tendencies. The authors propose that “social recognition of an identity-relevant behavioral intention may have negative effects on its enactment.” To test this, the authors made some social experiments, gathering and splitting their (rather large) number of test persons into different groups. They then told the groups to define a goal they’d like to achieve, and that they would have 45 minutes to work on the goal afterwards. Everything is still all good, but here’s the catch: half of the group announced their goals to the room (establishing social recognition) and the other half kept shut.

What the authors found was that the group that kept shut actually worked for the entire 45 minutes – while the group that had announced their goal only worked 33 minutes. When asked about their progress afterwards, the group that kept shut were much more realistic, stating that they still needed to do a lot of work to complete their goal, while the other group – though only having worked 33 minutes on average – were much closer to completion in their own mind.

The authors conclude that “when other people take notice of one’s identity-relevant behavioral intentions, one’s performance of the intended behaviors is compromised.” They elaborate that “other people’s taking notice of one’s identity-relevant intentions apparently engenders a premature sense of completeness regarding the identity goal.

This is somewhat the same methodology that I applied when not calling a spotter for my +10kg PR benchpress last year. I kept shut – it was my goal. I spoke up about it after I had achieved it, but up and until that point, no one knew that I was chasing down that goal, or that it even was a goal of mine. I had no premature sense of completeness, and I knew exactly how far in my progress I was – there was no fooling myself and thinking that I was closer than I was.

TL;DR: Find your goals, write them down and stay shut. 


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