Why You Should Not Talk About Your Goals

Thomas Frank’s video that inspired this post

I recently came across this video by Thomas Frank where he was saying that when you intend to do something important to you, you should not tell people about it.

And that goes against most of what we do: We tell people that we are planning to do X with the hope that they will be impressed by our intentions, encourage us, and probably keep us accountable by tracking our progress.

The Intention-Behavior Gap

But, scientifically speaking, you are better off keeping your mouth shut due to a peculiar phenomenon called the Intention-Behaviour gap.

Thomas defines it as:

“The disconnect between knowing what you should do and actually doing it.”

Thomas goes on to reveal that psychologists have been studying this subject for close to 100 years and they have discovered that human beings love dreaming.

We dream of being physically fit, of becoming financially successful, of becoming more socially recognized, etc.

Those psychologists also discovered that we usually know the first step we should take to start achieving those goals.

For example, if you want to be physically fit, go to the gym and watch what you eat… want to be financially successful, invest or expand your revenue streams… want to climb the social ladder, build networks and be more sociable…

NOTEIf you don’t know the first step to take to achieve your goal, asking someone else or researching the subject IS the first step.

But the trouble we have is taking the first step.

Social Reality

Social Reality defines the act of telling someone whose opinion you respect what you want to do and they affirm it (congratulate you).

In 2009, a group of scientists decided to look into how telling other people our intentions makes us less likely to act.

Those scientists did a study involving two groups of people and found that the group that publicly stated their goals are less likely to accomplish them than the one that kept its mouth shut and got to work immediately.

They discovered that social reality gives you a false sense of accomplishment and makes you less likely to seek the “ultimate” and more important sense of accomplishment – the one you get from fulfilling your objectives.

Key Takeaway

If you have to talk about your goals with someone, here are the rules:

Rule 1: Do not talk about your goals unless you need help.

Rule 2: Make sure that the person you are telling will keep you on your toes.

Rule 3: As you tell the person, talk about the specific actions rather than the end goals. Example: tell them that you want to start running at 6 AM instead of telling them you want to be fit.

Too Long You Can’t Read This or Watch The Video:

The main takeaway from this post is: when you tell someone whose opinion matters to you about your intentions to achieve a goal and they affirm it, you get the feeling that you have taken the first step towards accomplishing it when, in fact, you haven’t. This makes you less likely to get to work because your brain mistakes “talking” for “working.”

PS. If you find my writing to be annoying 😥, Thomas Frank did a better job of explaining the concept in his blog post.