Setting goals for your life can be an exciting process.
You’ve discovered something that you want be, do, or have, and have made a decision to get it.
Once you have a clear goal in mind, the next question to answer is ‘should you share your goals with others?’
Logically, it seems like sharing your goals can help you with accountability, and to potentially gain support while you are doing the hard work.
But if you’ve ever shared your goals with friends, family, or the world, then you know that you get a mixed response.
Some people are very encouraging when you share your goals. Others can be quite negative, dismissive, or even resentful.
In this article, I want to explore some of the reasons why it can be a good idea to share your goals with others, and also the situations where it can be a bad idea.
Is It Okay to Tell People About Your Goals?
Depending on the culture you were born into, it might feel uncomfortable to tell people about your goals and plans.
For example, in the American capitalist culture, achieving goals is seen as a part of a fulfilling life. In such an environment you are more likely to get praise for going after a career goal or personal goal.
In other cultures – such as in Russia or South Korea, for example – it might seem like you are being selfish, self-absorbed, or disrespectful to others if you are too focused on your life goals, and not contributing to the community.
In fact, a 2001 study at the University of Rochester found that in these types of cultures many people will set ‘avoidance goals’ – meaning they will set goals that aim to not do or be something so that they fit in better with their culture and community.
For this reason, many people are confused whether you should share your goals with family, friends, co-workers, bosses, or even the world via social media.
Mistaking ‘Talking’ for ‘Doing’
There is a very popular TEDx talk from 2010 by entrepreneur Derek Sivers in which he explains why he believes you should not share your goals.
In the talk, he explained that very often when we share our goals, that our minds can mistake the ‘talking with the doing’. This means that when we tell others we are going to achieve a goal, we get a psychological reward similar to actually achieving it.
Silver’s philosophy is based on a small study by Peter Gollowizter of 163 people who shared a goal about completing 45 minutes of work. It showed that those who had publicly shared their goal quit after only 33 minutes, whereas those who kept their goal to themselves lasted the whole 45 minutes.
While this study might have some merit with a smaller goal, when it comes to achieving a long term goal, it’s hard to make the correlation.
It’s easier to fool yourself when it comes to the short term, but a big goal requires long term action and commitment.
Within a few days or weeks of inaction, you will soon be able to see that you are just talking about your goals rather than actually doing something about them.
Should You Post Your Goals on Social Media?
Since the early 2000s and the invention of social media, it seems a new trend of sharing goals and aspirations online has emerged.
It seems that putting an ambitious goal ‘out there’ to world is like telling the world you are on the path to achieving it. Especially in the image-conscious world of Instagram, it can seem to be a status symbol to share your ambitious goal.
There are many support forums on sites like LifeTick even give you online tools to set goals properly.
And it seems that there are clear benefits of sharing goals on social media. Researchers from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conducted a study that found that people who shared their goals on Instagram or Facebook tended to make more progress compared to people who did not post about their goals.
However, this action of sharing goals on social media has another side to it. Very often we can get caught up in the obsession with sharing rather than actually achieving the goal.
If the intention behind sharing goals on social media becomes getting more likes or views, then the real reason is to get attention rather than to achieve a measurable goal.
Why Do People Criticize Your Goals?
One of the most surprising things you will discover when you share your goals with others, is thats some people will react negatively. They will criticize your goals, tell you that you won’t achieve your goals, or even question why you think you can achieve it.
Why does this happen? Well, there are a variety of reasons people criticize your goals:
- They’re worried that you will change as a result
- They think you might outshine them if you achieve your goal
- They might think you will fail and be dissapointed
- They actually want the same thing but are too scared to go for it themselves
- They are seeing your desires through their eyes
Very often people who criticize your goals are not the best people to spend time with. Often they are criticizing for their own reasons, but they can still affect your morale and motivation if you continue to spend time with them. They can stop you achieving bigger goals in life, and keep at their same level of mediocrity.
If you have people close to you – family, friends, coworkers – who criticize your goals, it can be wise to simply keep your goals hidden from them. Look for people who are where you want to be, and share your goals, plans, and aspirations with them.
Why Do You Want To Share Your Goals?
If you are a person who sets goals and has a lot of aspirations for their life, then it can feel natural to want to share your plans.
You might think that everyone will be excited that you have something specific that you are aiming for in your life.
However, when you share your goals with others, you will notice that some people are very supportive, and others can be quite discouraging.
Before sharing your goals with others, it’s important to consider why you are doing it.
Are you looking for encouragement?
Support and guidance?
All these benefits are often available when we share goals with people we trust. But gaining these benefits should not be the main reason we share goals with others.
Similar to mistaking ‘talking’ for ‘doing’, posting on social media about your goals can have deceptive psychological benefits which lower your need to actually achieve the goal.
As long as you are getting attention just talking about the goal, part of you will already be satisfied. But, as we all know, true progress and achieving goals requires consistent effort over time.
Do Successful People Share Their Goals?
An interesting phenomenon I have noticed is that the most successful people in most arenas in life share their goals with others, but do it in a specific way.
Rather than simply sharing openly with the world, they choose carefully who they share their goals with. Successful people often they choose to share their goals with mentors, advisors, coaches, or people who have actually already achieved the goal themselves.
It makes logical sense if you think about it – someone who has already walked the path before you is more likely to be encouraging and helpful. They have unique insights and real experience that can help you shorten your learning curve along the way.
Does Telling Someone Your Goal Make it Less Likely to Happen?
The short answer is that it depends who you share your goal with.
Applied psychology research seems to show that sharing your goals with the right people can help you achieve them. And if you have a clear goal commitment, or use a method such as smart goals, you can increase the chances of success.
But who are the best people to share your goals with? It seems that in most cases it is people who have already achieved the same goal, or are also trying to achieve it.
Researchers from the Association for Talent Development found that people have the following probabilities of successfully reaching goal if they follow these actions:
- Having a goal: 10% chance
- Consciously deciding you will do it: 25% chance
- Deciding when you will do it: 40% chance
- Planning how to do it: 50% chance
- Committing to someone that you will do it: 65% chance
- Having an accountability appointment with a person you’ve committed to: 95% chance
Sharing Your Goal with Someone You Respect
A 2020 study shared via the American Psychological Association found that if you share your specific goal with someone who you view as further ahead of you in life, then you are more likely to stick to the goal.
A person who has achieved what you want can give you positive feedback and constructive feedback about your progress. And using tools such as process praise – focusing on something you can control – can even further enhance the likelihood that you will achieve the goal.
However, if you share your clear goal with someone who is a peer, or has similar life circumstances, it may in fact stop you from achieving it.
Why is that? Because people who are at the same level as you currently do not have the mindset, habits, or knowledge to help you reach another level.
By spending more time with people who are not where you want to be, you are more likely to give up on your goals, or lower the chance of your goal acheivement.
To Share or Not To Share Your Goals?
Every person is unique when it comes to the goals they set. And the same thing goes for whether we choose to share our goals with others.
If you are fortunate to have supportive, positive-minded people around you, then it may be worth goal sharing with them. You can even set up an accountability partner situation with them to keep each other on track.
However, if you find that the people around you tend to criticize, ridicule, or question the goals you have chosen, perhaps it’s better to keep them to yourself.
And remember, that you can always change your environment and the people who you spend time with. By spending more time with those people who have or are what you want, you are more likely to grow yourself up to their standards.
Being a goal setter is one of the best ways I know to keep life invigorating and evolving. Setting a realistic goal is an essential part of our personal development. Of course, it’s up to each of us how we want to share them with the world.
We can either share them with people who are sharing our journey, or we can keep quiet, and prove the doubters wrong when we achieve them.