We’ve all done it at least once, come up with that great idea or plan and exuberantly have told everyone we know about it. I’m going to write a book, get fit at the gym for that marathon, start a new inspired school for the town! No harm in sharing the excitement right? Shouldn’t you announce your goals, so friends can support you? Isn’t it good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects? Shouldn’t you visualize the goal as already yours and state your intention in lines with the ‘law of attraction’?
Don’t do it! Tests done show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen. Announcing your plans to others simply satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.
NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” and recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?”
He stated that in 1933, researchers found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.
“(Take) a mother who talks about all the great things she’s going to do for her kids — help them do better in school, get better test scores, give them extra training — while all the other mothers nod in approval,” says 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 the intentions function as a symbol of possessing the desired identity. This is evident in the statement of a “high-order goal,” such as losing weight to become a healthier person, but not in planning to drop three pounds to fit into a dress.
Whether you plan to cure cancer, lose weight or be the world’s best parent, results of a the study suggest you’d do well to keep your mouth shut about it. And not just to avoid annoying other people either. Researchers report that when dealing with identity goals — that is, the aspirations that define who we are — sharing our intentions doesn’t necessarily motivate achievement.
On the contrary, a series of experiments shows that when others take notice of our plans, performance is compromised because we gain “a premature sense of completeness” about the goal.
In a time when funding is scarce and we often have to go public with our plans in order to get them off the ground and over sharing on Facebook is rife, the decision to reveal all needs to be carefully considered as a longterm tactic.
In the research four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.
It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction “I’ve joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”, but as a high order goal and in dissatisfaction “I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”
So this New Year when you are setting your new goals and plans. Keep them to yourself. Follow this and success could be just a shhhh away.
Have you ever announced your great plans and never completed them? How did it make you feel?