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Don't Tell Your Goals to Anyone
Research shows that announcing your goals drains them of their power
Bethany Heitman / Source: SF Gate
It's a commonly held belief that whenever you set a new goal for yourself -- whether it's scoring your ideal job, writing a screenplay, or yogacizing your bod down a size or two -- you should broadcast it to everyone you know. After all, the more people you tell, the more likely you'll do it because you don't want to be thought of as a failure, right?
Wrong. New research shows the opposite is true. A study conducted at New York University found that blabbing about your goal can give you a false sense of accomplishment, making you less likely to actually go after it.
Here's an example: Imagine you tell a friend that you want to train to be a long-distance runner. Your bud has a "Oh, wow, that's great!" reaction, and you get a jolt of satisfaction and pride. You feel so satisfied, in fact, that you lose motivation to get up early and jog. Why should you, when you're already reaping the benefits of being known as a runner?
The smarter strategy: Don't tell a soul. Of course, that's easier said than done. Keep reading for more reasons to stay mum, plus tips for achieving your dream on the down-low.
Why Secret Dreams Are So Freakin' Powerful
Okay, so you can at least tell your BFF, right? Nope. "By not telling anyone, you're making sure your goal is something you're really doing for yourself," says K.C. McCulloch, PhD, an assistant professor at Idaho State University who worked on the study. That's opposed to, say, just wanting to have something impressive to talk about at parties.
Plus, you won't run the risk of letting anyone else's opinions get in your way. "What stops a lot of people from doing the things they dream of is other people," says Susan B. Wilson, a life coach in Michigan and founder of Get Over It, Move On! "If you tell someone you want to apply to a graduate program, they may go on about how terrible the campus is... and you may start to believe them when you really should be trusting your own gut."
Beyond that, loved ones may have ulterior motives for being naysayers. If you announce that you're going to be devoting tons of time to a big goal, a good friend or your significant other may worry that he or she will see less of you and subconsciously distract you from the finish line.
Two more reasons why keeping your dream a secret will help your cause: You'll be so antsy finally to be able to share it with everyone that you'll put your nose to the grindstone and get it done as fast as possible. And doing something just for you feels selfish in a really good way. "Women tend to overextend themselves for loved ones," says psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD, author of Find Your Focus Zone. "So if they can have something that is solely theirs, it can feel really special."
How to Self-Motivate When No One Knows
Staying on task without support from your friends and family might sound impossible, but there are some easy, tried-and-true ways to do it.
"There's something called the fantasy realization theory that has proven to help people attain whatever they want," says McCulloch. The gist is that you must fantasize about your goal on a regular basis - think about all the awesome consequences of achieving it. Then think about all the negative things you'll have to deal with along the way: sacrificing time with friends, paying for expensive classes, etc.
"Often, people think about only either the really good stuff or the terrible stuff," says McCulloch. "But by considering both, you make the fantasy more realistic, and it will seem more attainable." Not only that, but it also helps you plan exactly which steps you need to take to get there.
"Surrounding yourself with people who have some connection to your dream is also sure to push you forward," says McCulloch. If you want to get into the fashion industry, for example, schedule lots of time with fashion-forward pals. They may not know what you're trying to do, but being around them will keep your eyes on the prize.
If You Have to Blab to Someone...
...Make sure you pick the right person to share your dream with. "Choose someone you trust completely who has never been competitive with you and has been successful at achieving her own goals," says Palladino. Can't think of anyone who fits the bill? Zip your damn lips, and try writing an anonymous blog (just be sure to turn off the comments option). That way, you can tell the whole world without suffering any of the negative effects of outing your secret.
"Unrealistic" Goals Are Easier to Achieve