Keep goals to yourself or tell everyone?

If you read around, there are two approaches to accomplishing goals that seem equally obvious but contradict one another. Tell people and don’t.

Advocates of broadcasting goals say that you’re more likely to accomplish them since you have some accountability and they can help you along with your goals.

The opposing party says it gives a premature sense of accomplishment and makes you less likely to even get started on your goal.

I’ll look at them one by one.

Tell the world

The main selling point of this tactic is that it creates accountability. Telling your friends and family about your goals means that other people will know if you fail or succeed. This might put a helpful amount of pressure onto your shoulders which helps getting through the initial moments where the first few steps are difficult.

However, all the accountability in the world is useless when it offers no consequences. If your friend simply invites you out to dinner after you’ve said you’re going to the gym and dieting, you’re not going to make much progress. Some friends might not want to push too hard since they think it’d put the friendship in jeopardy. Which makes perfect sense if boundaries aren’t made clear.

Sites like beeminder and HabitRPG make it easier to have accountability with consequences. If you’re prone to just ignoring consequences or consequential situations completely, these might be unhelpful.

Keep it to yourself

This school of thought veers slightly from intuition and says you should keep your goals to yourself. Broadcasting them gives you feelings of accomplishment and makes you less likely to start working on it.

Peter Gollwitzer completed a study and found, in a four different tests of 63 people, those who announced their intention to complete task were less likely to do so.

All were asked to write down a personal goal. Half of the group made their intentions clear and the other half didn’t. They were asked to do 45 minutes of work on their goal and the quiet group averaged 45 minutes of work. The vocal half averaged only 33 minutes.

Now, there are other factors that could have influenced the amount of time spent on the goal. For example, if the goal is something like ‘earn an extra $10K over the next 3 years at work’ it’s difficult to think of what 45 minutes of work would look like in a study scenario. However, it does look like the controlled variable (announcing the goal) is the most important. But please, welcome such claims with healthy scepticism.

This approach is appealing. When I began journaling, I told no one and just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it without other people keeping an eye on me. If I told people, I’d fear I might disappoint them. But that fear alone wasn’t enough to stop me from disappointing them. Which multiplied the feeling of guilt.

Start secretly then let the world know

Instead of telling people I was going to write every day, I wrote every day without others knowing. After I hit a milestone (30 days) I told people what I had done.

I call it healthy bragging.

Rather than saying:

“From next week, I’ll go to the gym 3 times a week!”

Say:

“I’ve been going to the gym 3 times a week and I’m going tomorrow”

The second statement requires us to have evidence supporting our future intentions and you get to tell people about what you’re doing. And feel good about it!

You also get the added benefit of some accountability. You won’t fear you’ll disappoint people because you’ve proven to yourself that you’re capable of working towards your goal.

Your goal affirmation sounds more powerful to the people who hear it and yourself.

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  1. “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?” by Peter Gollwitzer et al [PDF]
  2. Derek Siver’s TED Talk explains it much better. (~3mins)
  3. Healthy bragging is my own term. It’s brilliant.
  4. It’s important to keep your first steps small.
  5. I’ve used HabitRPG for some time and it’s been useful. It’s recommended.

Thanks for reading.

5 Reasons to Start Meditating

I’ve been meditating for about 6 months now. It nearly skipped my mind because it feels like such a normal thing to do but I feel like I’ve learned a few important things during that time.

Here are 5 reasons to start meditating.

1. Increased Focus 

Staying focused on things can be difficult because we have to remind ourselves not to succumb to small distractions. That requires energy and it’s significantly easier to be distracted than ignore them.

While meditating, you aim to just focus on your breathing (at least the mindfulness approach to meditation). Meditating daily means that you’ll improve your ability to remain focused on one thing instead of following every thought that pops into your head.

I no longer feel the need to follow everything that pops into my head because I understand them for what they are. Small urges.

2. Less guilt

Noticing that you’ve failed to do something we think you should have done can result in a lot of self criticism. It can be extremely harmful to your overall well-being and difficult to stop. I’m still quite self critical. However, while meditating I don’t have those feelings at all.

It’s a beautiful moment. Even if it is brief.

When thoughts of inadequacy rush into your head, it’s tempting to follow them into an even darker train of thoughts. However, all you have to do is bring your focus gently back to your breathing. You’ll probably find it quite difficult to do but it gets much easier with time.

The practice is something you can do even when you aren’t meditating.

3. Less stress 

When we’re stressed, we’re often worried about things that we need to do in the future or there are too many things that are going on in the present moment. We feel overwhelmed and want it all to stop but we can’t make it stop.

Meditation is fantastic at reducing stress. When you meditate you’re just trying to focus on a single thing instead of allowing yourself get consumed with the various commitments you have. Taking a few deep breaths and slowing yourself down will let you approach the things you need to do with a clear mind.

4. Better posture

I have a bad back problem and tend to slouch a lot because of it. While the problem is far from being over, my posture has improved slightly. Both in front of the computer and while walking.

Meditation promotes a better posture because you need to be fairly alert. Eventually, good posture will become a habit. It’s improved my concentration and breathing is actually easier!

Remember, having a good posture does not mean keeping your back completely straight. That’d hurt more if you have upper back problems.

5. Increased mindfulness

When I think about my position before I start meditating and now, I’d say that meditating is a positive aspect in my life now.

However, the biggest influence it has had on my everyday living isn’t the act of sitting down and meditating. It’s how I go about my day.

I think about the things I’m doing instead of thinking about what it’ll do for the future. I savour meals and drinks more instead of rushing them for no good reason. I get completely involved in what I’m doing instead of continuously dividing my attention with unimportant things.

Ultimately, I actually feel like I’m experiencing the things I do instead of just doing them. That is what it’s like to live in the now.

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If you want to know how it felt after 1 month, you can read my last post on meditation. It’ll show you my experience when I first started. It can be quite frustrating but like anything else, it requires a bit of persistence to get used to!

I hope at least one of these reasons is a reason to begin meditating for at least 5 minutes a day.

If you already meditate, how would you convince someone else to begin? I’d love to hear your reasons! If you don’t, do you think you’ll try it?

1. You may ask why I didn’t do 6 reasons after 6 months to meditate. You may not. Either way, I don’t have an answer to your question.

2. If you feel like a peaceful person after reading this, you can share the peace by sharing this post.

3. I like meditation and will write more about it. If you want to keep updated on whatever I write, you should follow the blog. It’s easier than not laughing at any of my jokes.