Your Goals – To tell or not to tell?

What is best – to tell people your goals, or to keep them to yourself?

There are many positives to being a member of a NLOWE Mastermind Group: the camaraderie, the support of other business women, sharing joys, woes, suggestions and monthly goal setting. Goals which move one’s business along. Goals which help break down large global activities into smaller, bite size doable ones.  Goals which give one a sense of satisfaction when achieved.  But psychologists have found it is not always wise to share our goals.

When I was young I was interested in so many things, I’d get started on projects but didn’t follow through.  There was always something new and more interesting to move on to and therefore a lot of unfinished stuff in my youth. Consequently, I developed a reputation in my family as a person who said what she was going to do but didn’t finish anything.  I needed people to believe in me so I stopped talking about what I was up to until I had results and achievements to show.

Derek Sivers, in his TED Talk: “Keep your goals to yourself”, explains what happens psychologically when we tell others what we want to achieve.  He says the process of telling and receiving acknowledgement from others tricks our minds into believing that our goals are already reached.  The “telling” provides positive feedback, which gives us a sense of achievement without doing anything.  Just by talking, therefore, our minds let us off the hook and our motivation to get started drops.  What we were seeking was not the achievement, but the positive feedback.

Therefore, Sivers suggests, we resist the temptation to announce our goals, keep them to ourselves and delay the gratification that social approval brings.  He asks us to understand that your mind mistakes the talking for the doing.

Yes, I know what many of you are thinking.  Where does that leave the buddy system?  For many of you it’s only by teaming up with others and sharing goals that you get things started and keep them going.  Sharing your goals inspires you to act and follow through to completion.  Having a support system is a motivating tool to succeed.

So what’s going on?  Here’s my theory and it’s only that – a theory:  There are two types of people – internally motivated and externally motivated.

I believe people who are internally motivated are more likely to keep their goals to themselves.  Maybe they don’t like to admit failure.  Perhaps they prefer to bask in the glow of achievement, enjoying the pats on the back and positive feedback for what they have done.  They don’t want to admit to goals they are uncertain of reaching.

On the other hand, externally motivated individuals need the commitment to and support of others.  They need to tell everyone what they are up to in order to make it real and get the ball rolling. They are the ones who benefit from a buddy system to get started and keep going.  They need a “cheering section”, people who will encourage but not blame them if they miss the mark. This appears to work well when the buddy is participating in achieving the same goals.

Are you internally motivated or externally motivated and what goal setting strategy works for you?

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June is the owner of Ultramarine Fine Art Studio, a unique combination of working studio and art gallery.  June completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax graduating in 1999. Her three areas of artistic interest: painting, sculpture and textiles are reflected in her most recent oil paintings.   Visit June’s website at to view her current work.


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