Do you find yourself always setting goals but then struggling to actually achieve them? Have you been embarrassed that you shared your goals with your friends and family, only to never make any real progress?
Do you find yourself starting over again and again?
What if I told you that sharing your goals with others might be the biggest thing holding you back? That sharing your goals can actually be a very bad idea?
I know — this advice seems to go against everything you’ve heard before.
Most people will tell you that one of the most important steps you can take towards achieving your goals is to share them with others. They might say that sharing your goals will increase your accountability.
Other’s will give you positive reinforcement that you’re doing amazing things and that sharing and then achieving your goals will make you a better person. Other people will help you get there and stick to it.
While there is some good truth to this, this is not the entire picture.
Now, you might be wondering, how would that be wrong? Why would sharing your goals be a bad idea?
Just sharing your goals feels great but helps very little. Sharing your progress feels amazing and helps a ton.
- Get started before you share any of your goals.
- Share your progress towards your goals instead of just your goals.
Read below to find out the spicy details!
To illustrate this, let’s look at one of the most popular examples of goal sharing: New Years’.
The classic New Year’s example
Let’s say it’s the new year, and you want to do something amazing — whether it is a weight loss goal, a business goal, or anything else. You’ll be very excited and motivated. It is a new day, and everyone around you is making goals, so you’re pumped and ready to create your own goals.
The first thing you do is share a post about your goal with your friends, family, and acquaintances on your social media channels.
Maybe you get a lot of positive engagement on this post. Everyone is liking it and leaving you encouraging or congratulatory comments. Perhaps you even receive a few direct messages from friends who are rooting for you and providing their support. This outpouring of support feels fantastic, and everything is going great so far.
Many of us have done this. But why do we all feel so compelled to publicly share our goals with others? What do we get out of it? Let’s break it down.
What’s the purpose of sharing your goals?
So there are a couple of things that sharing your goals gives you in return:
- The first thing is that it creates a strong sense of accountability. Once your goals are out in the world and other people know about them, you externalize the accountability. You’re no longer the only one keeping yourself accountable. Now your community is keeping you accountable as well. The next time you see them, they’ll probably ask about your progress and want to know more.
- Secondly, working on your goals and committing to improving yourself is an undertaking that is highly praised in any community. Becoming a better person who is more competent at certain things can elevate your status in the community’s eyes. So by sharing your goals, you are helping to highlight the role you play in your community and increasing your social standing.
- Thirdly, when you share your goals with your community and receive positive feedback, your brain gets a big fat dopamine hit. Dopamine is a hormone in your brain that influences your mood and motivation. It helps provide positive feedback loops whenever you do something good that your brain wants you to keep doing. For example, dopamine is released when you eat, making you feel good and teaches you that eating is a beneficial activity that you should continue doing. Dopamine is essentially a reward for your good behavior.
This dopamine hit is probably the most influential and rewarding factor for why we tend to share our goals with others.
So far, so good — but let’s examine why some of these apparent benefits can actually be bad.
Why sharing your goals can be bad
So, there is nothing inherently wrong with those three rewards for sharing your goals. However, they can lead to some massive problems that hold many people back from achieving their goals.
One problem is that in our modern, hyperconnected world where everyone is on social media, what happens is that people’s communities are so large. Everyone shares so many goals and things about their lives. Since there are so many different peoples’ goals on social media, the accountability factor is getting watered down. People cannot keep track of everyone else’s goals. That’s way too much information for one person to track.
Another problem is that you get this big dopamine hit simply from posting about your goals. Therefore, the reward you get for sharing your goals is very similar to the reward you will get if and when you actually achieve your goals in real life.
Sharing = Dopamine.Tweet
Dopamine = More of what you shared about.
What activity are you sharing?
So, metaphorically you are getting to eat your cake before putting any of the effort in. You’re not really going to the gym; you’re just talking about going to the gym. Talking about it can even make you feel as you went to the gym and are working on your health, even if you’ve never gone. Of course, you won’t have any sore muscles or sweaty clothes, but your brain gets the dopamine hit no matter what.
So now you see, this is a big problem. You’re essentially teaching your brain that you don’t have to do stuff. You can just share about stuff and talk about stuff, and you’re going to get the same rewards.
So next, let’s take a look at how we might fix this problem.
How can you set yourself up for success?
Is it possible to still get some of those fantastic benefits — like the accountability and support from your community — but without all the downsides that teach your brain bad habits and that can interfere with your success?
Luckily, there is a way to do it correctly and set yourself up for success.
The thing is, you have to get started first. Once you get started, then it’s a whole different story.
Don’t share your goals with others right away. Wait until you’ve made at least your first step, and then share your progress with them instead.
When you share your progress on your goals, then you still get the dopamine hit. You experience an internal celebration in your body, but your body is celebrating something actually real. This little celebration is a reward for DOING something, rather than just saying something. This then trains your body to continue doing that thing and make it a habit, so you keep working on your goal, which is obviously much more productive for actually achieving your goals.
Progress turns into more progress and more progress — increasing your chances of success significantly until you finish.
Which is amazing!
Sharing your goals gets you hooked on sharing.Tweet
Sharing your progress gets you hooked up on moving forward towards them.
And on top of all of that, you still get the extra accountability that sharing your goals with others gives you.
By sharing your progress, you highlight the best potential version of yourself for others and, therefore, increase your status within your community and create a better version of yourself in their eyes. This can provide a massive dopamine hit and fuel your fire to keep up all the good habits and good work you’ve done.
So, if you want to consistently achieve your goals this year, this mindset shift should help you tremendously. It is just a minor shift that can make a world of difference.
It is perfectly good to talk about your goals with others, whether through in-person connections or online on social media. But, it is absolutely critical that you don’t talk about your goals until you have real progress to share.
Wait to talk about your goals until you have acted on them and can share something concrete. If it was a weight loss goal, wait until you’ve actually gone to the gym a few times and have something to show for it. Maybe you learned a new skill, beat an old personal record, made some workout buddies, or lost a few pounds. Share a progress picture or an anecdote about something you learned and accomplished.
Whenever you make progress on something, share it! It doesn’t need to be a big accomplishment. Sometimes it can be helpful to make tiny milestones for yourself and appreciate the small wins in life.
But whatever type of progress you want to highlight, it is critical not to share about it until you’ve truly done it. This is the only way to make sure that sharing your goals will be actually helpful to you instead of harmful.
Celebrate your achievements and teach your brain to reward you for your progress. Do this over and over again until you teach your brain to make progress automatically. You can get started over and over and over again. You can take baby steps. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to share your progress, no matter how small. If you keep at it, then eventually you become good, then better, then great.
Just sharing your goals feels great but helps very little.Tweet
Sharing your progress feels amazing and helps a ton.
I hope this helps you achieve your goals consistently and stay awesome.