Has it ever occurred to you that many successful people rarely talk about their goals but keep them secret and focus on execution? If yes, you are right. A good number of successful make it their mission to keep their goals secret until the results speak for themselves. You may ask why, and that is a good question. We will delve into the science of it all, why that helps you achieve your goals and how to use this to your advantage.
Why Don’t The Best Intentions Always Become The Best Actions And Achievements?
Most people have big dreams. Most people have positive intentions. They plan of such grand things and achievements. But only in the future. While they wait for that future, they never act on it. They fail to execute and to move toward their goals through consistent action. Psychologist Peter Gollwitzer has made it his job to provide answers to such questions. He has conducted research in this regard and has come out with some interesting revelations.
In 2009, Peter Gollwitzer published his groundbreaking research which supported research that had already been done by himself and that of research by other psychologists.
In the research, participants were asked to write their personal goal. Half of the 163 people were made to share their goal with the rest of the group. All participants were then given 45 minutes to work on their goal. However, they were told they could stop at any time they so pleased to.
What were the results?
Those who announced their goals to the rest of the participants quit trying to directly achieve their goals an averagely of 33 minutes. While…
Those who were made to shut up and not share their goals worked the entire 45 minutes trying directly to achieve their goals.
Now, what happened? Those who were made to announce their goals quit early because they had a false sense of progress since by telling others their plans, they felt they had already done something. This made them feel they were ahead whereas those who were made to shut up assessed the situation without form of bias in thinking they had started doing something about their goals.
The Implementation Intentions Theory By Peter Gollwitzer
A goal intention is when you have a certain goal you want to achieve. We all have goal intentions. We have to lose weight, win that competition, study for 3 hours each day, and so forth. These are often good-intentioned. However, the issue with goal intentions is that they do not have an action plan. At best, they are simply “wants” or “wishlists”.
When implementation intentions are brought into the mix, you are then far more likely, statistically and practically speaking, to achieve your goals. How so? Implementation intentions are the intentions or sort of plans you set for the various scenarios around achieving your goal.
For instance, a student who wants to study 3 hours a day may set an alarm for the time she wants to study. She may decide to early in the day, say 10 am. She may decide to analyse other things that may come up to prevent her from achieving her goal. Then, she would find alternatives to them in order to be able to achieve her goals as planned. Thus, by setting her implementation intentions about how she will be implementing her plan, she has set a road map that ensures that she actually does it.
The implementation intentions theory works in an “if…then” format.
If… “Scenario” then…” Action” => Plan
An example is, if I wake up, then I will go out and run for 30 mins around the neighbourhood.
This gives a clear picture of when to take a certain action. That is when that trigger scenario happens, then the action with time will kick in automatically as a habit.
Satisfaction: Instant Gratification Vs Discipline and Delayed Gratification
When it comes to goal setting and achieving great feats, you need to make a conscious decision on the path you want to take. And No! You can’t take both paths as you wouldn’t be able to travel two roads at a time.
You need to choose between instant gratification and delayed gratification.
Instant gratification is when you want results now. When you want to enjoy it now. When you want to experience your best life in the now. This often results in sacrificing the future hence flattening out your life into an ordinary one.
A more appealing but difficult option is taking the path of delayed gratification. Delayed literally means deferred to the future. It doesn’t mean you can’t try to do it now, but waiting patiently will allow you to experience compound effects. Therefore, your life will be exponentially better if you delay gratification and endure hard work now to experience your best life a little later.
By telling others your goals, you are actually submitting to instant gratification. This is because of the social reality phenomenon. When you tell people your goals and dreams, you begin to feel that you are doing something toward achieving them. You create a false social reality where you are already ahead hence you downplay the work needed to get the job done. This false sense gives you a sense of leadership when you haven’t even started.
This kind of behaviour is very common if you think about it. Take a survey, and ask your friends if they would want to be filthy rich and successful. I bet they’d all say they want to do all those great things. The problem is, they are doing almost nothing in the now to achieve this. However, they feel comfortable announcing their goal to become rich and successful.
Secrecy Principle by Dr Robert Anthony.
The secrecy principle has two sides. When you tell others your goals when they have no role to play in its achievement, it is often to seek a sense of approval and admiration from them. This culminates as a sort of “high” and an instant of instant gratification. This is the first side of the secrecy principle.
The second is that, when you happen to divulge your goals and intentions to negative people who may be jealous, will try to talk you out of it. These people are called naysayers. They will find any excuse in the book why you cannot and mustn’t do what you plan to do.
Another dimension to this is family and close friends who care about you may be scared for your safety and security that they would try to convince you out of it. As much as these are good intentions, they tend to be biased and often lead to wrong decision making. If you try out the idea, then would you know if It works or not. Until then, no one has the right to tell you it isn’t worth it.
It is, therefore, in your best interest to keep your goals and dreams to yourself. Have a plan and stick to it. Adapt to change but do not alter your original goal unless your vision (Your life plan) changes.
How Even Fantasizing About Your Future May Be Detrimental To You Achieving Them
Fantasizing about the future has similar effects as it stunts your ability to spot potential challenges due to your overly optimistic view of the situation. This is also a decision-making bias that many managers, CEOs and basically every human because we all make decisions.
Expecting success isn’t the same as fantasizing. Fantasizing involves a daydream-like imagination of the future. However, expecting success is accessing your chances with some level of objectivity and expecting that things will go well and your goals will be achieved.
A good trick is to always prepare for the worst but expect the best.
Elon Musk (One of my personal heroes) in an interview that Tesla and SpaceX had only a 10% chance of becoming successful. Yet he pursued. Seth shares this view by asking “What would you do know you would fail?”. This is contrasted with the popular saying that “What would you do if you couldn’t fail”. Seth says this is a sort of warped way of seeing this.
Sometimes you need to manage your expectations well in order to attach the required attention and effort to make your goals come true.
You might be asking; this seems to apply to only individuals. Is that the case? Yes. Let me explain further.
When is it okay to share your goals?
In certain cases, you will have to share your goals with others (even many people such as a team). Here are the various limitations to the application of the secrecy principles.
1. When You Are Working With A Partner Such As An Accountability Partner
In certain cases, such as when you work with a fitness coach to achieve your weight goals, you can share your goals. This way, they can further facilitate the implementation of your goal intentions and not hinder it.
2. When You Have Carefully Considered The Traits Of The Person You Are Sharing With
Certain people radiate positivity and other good traits through which they see the best in situations. They are able to be a source of encouragement to others. This type of people is an exception and will be a way to boost your energy to achieve your goals.
3. Add Details That Will Help The Person To Follow Up And Help You Stay Accountable
Note that when sharing your goals, you should be as detailed as possible. Tell them the goal, your source of motivation, how exactly you plan to see it through. This has a two-way effect. Firstly, it allows you to deeply think and consciously consider your chosen path. Secondly, it allows your partner to help you stay accountable. Fed with details, they can occasionally check up, offer help and suggest ways to improve your odds of success.
4. Use The Right Language
Language is very powerful. Through words and thoughts, our minds are programmed and our lives made. Choose more affirmative and empowering language than passive and less engaging language. Use “I will do X when Y happens” instead of “I intent to X”. Be clear with what you want, how your intent to obtain it and set the step by step actions you will use to get there.
5. When Working With A-Team
Achieving success in a team involves everyone clearly understanding the goal, the purpose of the goal and their role. They also need to understand how their own role fits into the overall execution plan. That said, you have to share your goals with your team. An example is a CEO. Your employees need to understand their KPIs, how it fits into the vision and mission of the organisation.
6. In An Organisation
You may not be the boss but you are in a position in an organisation to set goals. They may be goals you set for yourself as part of your career upward mobility plan. Even though it is your personal plan or goal, you need your subordinates to contribute in certain key ways. It may be advisable to get some of them in the know so they can support you.
Have you ever divulged your goals out to someone? How did it go? You now understand the psychology behind why most successful people keep their goals to themselves. It is very tempting to seek the temporary high. But to achieve success, you need to find what already successful people have done and emulate or “copy” their strategies.