With the New Year starting, almost everyone has set new goals. Lose weight, get stronger, spend more time with family, learn how to cook. Whatever it is, we all have goals.
And we’ve got a few bonus tips to help you stay accountable to your goals!
But before you jump right into the tips, here’s a little interesting tidbit of information I want to share with you about goals:
If you want to hit your goal –
DON’T TELL ANYONE ABOUT IT!
What?! It sounds crazy, I know. Because all we‘ve ever heard about goals is the importance of telling people. Letting others know so they can keep you accountable, motivated and all that stuff. But it turns out, that might be backward.
Since the 1920’s, researchers have been studying this stuff. And it keeps coming up that the people who successfully hit their goals are the ones who keep them secret. They don’t blab about them at work and they don’t post them on Facebook.
WHY DOES TALKING ABOUT GOALS STOP THEM FROM HAPPENING?
Remember how it feels when you tell someone something you’re proud of? Your heart flutters, a huge smile spreads across your face and you even get a rush of feel good hormones in your brain. That same thing happens when you tell people about your goals. About your big plans to improve yourself.
You already have the excitement of your new goal and that shows when you talk about it. And those folks that have the privilege of hearing your goal are probably praising you for setting such a wonderful goal. They give you a boost of confidence and gratification when they give approval for setting your sights high.
But the problem is your brain. It doesn’t know whether that feel good response you got came from just talking about it or actually from achieving it. But either way, you got the response you wanted. You feel good and you feel successful. And because your friends now know, that goal became a social reality. Your brain now recognizes it as truth when it’s really still sitting in fantasyland just waiting to be put into action.
Typically, we have to wait to hit our goals before we feel successful. But by telling others, you skip all those steps of working hard and get that successful feeling instantly. Then there’s no point in working toward that goal because you already got your reward.
Let’s say you have a big presentation coming up at work. And if you nail it, you get $500. Well the presentation is next week, but I’ll just give you the cold hard cash now, assuming you’ll do great. Are you going to be motivated to make that presentation perfect? Heck no, you already got your reward. It no longer matters how well you do.
By telling others, you lose the jittery excitement about achieving that goal because you already felt the sweet taste of victory. Without actually winning. Sharing your goals rob you of your motivation to actually achieve them.
WHY SECRET GOALS ARE BETTER
People miss the mark on achieving their goals for different reasons. Not only do you enter this social reality where your brain thinks you already hit that goal, but you also get influenced by other people when you tell them. Most of the time, the social influence falls into one of these two categories:
1. You tell your friend about your goal. And they might roll their eyes or agree unenthusiastically. And those things can unconsciously encourage you to quit – whether your friends were trying to sway you or not. Maybe they invite you out for drinks when you already said you were trying to cut back on alcohol. Maybe they use the “just this one time” phrase to tempt you off course. Or maybe they flat out tell you your goal sucks. Whatever it is, most of us care about the opinions of friends and family. And when their opinions don’t align with your goals, you may change your goals rather than going against the grain of the people you care about.
2. That goal didn’t really align with what you wanted in the first place. Too many people pick socially acceptable goals rather than something true to their own desires. Sure, it seems like you should probably lose weight, but do you really want to? If the answer is no, then you’re not going to stick to it. Or maybe your spouse wants you to spend less time at the office, so you set that as the goal. But if that’s not something you yourself really want, you aren’t going to make it happen. Socially acceptable goals or ones suggested by other people are rarely going to end with success.
The moral of the story: other people get in the way of achieving goals. By tricking your brain when you say it out loud, sabotaging you off course or influencing what your goal is in the first place, they can change whether you will stay on track for success or jump ship. By keeping your goal to yourself, you prevent the influence from the outsiders.
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED IF NO ONE ELSE KNOWS YOUR GOAL?
We used to think that telling other people was how we stayed accountable. But the truth is, you should be able to keep yourself accountable for a goal that’s really from your heart. If its something you really want, you’d be willing to work for it. Whether anyone else knows or not.
Now even if it that goal is true to yourself, sometimes it’s hard to stay on track. But there are two different ways to keep yourself motivated. You can focus on the success. Or you can focus on the failure.
FOCUS ON FAILURE: Most people are more motivated by the consequence of NOT achieving success than the actual success itself. Said in another way, avoiding punishment is more driving than getting a reward. And if you work better this way, set your goal and then set your consequence. If you want to lose weight, give yourself a specific goal and a time frame. Then choose the consequence. So maybe you want to lose 40 pounds. You give yourself 4 months to do it. And then you set your consequence: if you don’t achieve your goal in your time frame, $500 gets donated to a cause you don’t believe in, maybe the Donald Trump Campaign or the Westboro Baptist Church.
There are plenty of sites, like stickk.com, to help hold you accountable to that consequence. If (or I should say when…) you achieve your goal, you get to keep the money to splurge on yourself. But the driving force is really avoiding the consequence, not really enjoying the reward.
FOCUS ON SUCCESS: But then there’s the other way to look at it. To avoid looking at the failure side and stay focused on the rewards. To keep your growth, your potential and your drivers in the forefront to stay motivated. This way is a little more forgiving, because if you slip, you just get back on course. But there are tools that are designed to keep you motivated without slipping. And without punishing yourself. There’s this super smart guy, John Lee Dumas, and he created a tool to keep people on track for their goals. It’s called the Freedom Journal. It helps you set a goal that can be accomplished in 100 days and then it takes you through each day. Each day it helps you stay committed to your course (plus all the proceeds go to charity – you can’t beat that).
But if you don’t want to buy something to help you stay committed to your goal, just check out this free download with 12 other ways to stay motivated to stick to your goals. These don’t cost a dime.
BUT IF YOU HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE…
Pick one person you trust that you know is an endless supporter. Not someone who has ever been competitive with you. Not someone who will question your goal or try and change it in anyway. Pick someone you know through and through will back you.
And tell them about your goal in a very specific way. If you tell someone your goal like “hey buddy ol’ pal, I joined a gym and I’m gonna do 100 burpees every single day to get in shape” they are going to praise you. “Awesome goal, way to set your sights high!” And because you said it out loud and got a positive reaction, your brain already thinks you’re halfway there. Good-bye motivation.
But if you say it in a bit more negative way, the result is very different. “I have to get in shape this year so kick my butt if I don’t do burpees at the end of every workout, okay?” You’re not getting much praise out of that kind of a statement, but you’re still sharing your goal. And you’re not convincing your brain that you had any kind of success. You’re keeping yourself motivated to stick to your plans.
So from now on, instead of yakking about your goals, start working toward them. Don’t let talking be a substitute for doing. Stay action focused and let people see the end results for themselves.