We’ve always been told to set long-term and short-term goals, aim high, challenge ourselves, tell others our goals so they can keep us accountable, etc.—but how much of this works? You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has achieved every single goal they’ve ever set. Completing goals often seems like an insurmountable task, but there may be a slightly new way of looking at goal-setting that just might work for you.
Should You Keep it a Secret?
This likely goes against everything you’ve always thought or been told about goal-setting—but some research indicates that you shouldn’t tell people your goals. The theory goes like this: When you tell someone your goal (I’m going to start hitting the gym four days a week!), you feel good about it and you feel even better about their reaction—but these premature feelings of self-satisfaction make it less likely that you’ll follow through. Basically, you’ve tricked yourself into feeling like you’ve accomplished your goal, just by talking about your intentions.
And this isn’t a new concept; this theory actually dates back almost 100 years starting in the 1920s with social psychology found Kurt Lewin. The most recent studies published were in 2009 by psychology professor, Peter Gollwitzer. He found that people who spoke openly about their intentions gave up after a shorter period of time—or felt like they were further along toward their goal than they really were.
Again, this probably is quite different from what you’ve been taught—and perhaps telling people your goals and having them hold you accountable is what works for you. But if you share your intentions and still have a hard-time achieving your goals, it might be worth it to give this a try. Or you could marry the two ideas: Share your goal with one person and tell them to hold you accountable, but keep it zipped for everyone else—play with these theories and find the best method for you!
Try a Short-Term Challenge
Goals can be overwhelming—especially when they are larger, life-changing kind of goals. Instead of setting off to transform yourself in one fell swoop, settle for 30 days instead. It’s far less intimidating to tell yourself you’re only going to do something for a set amount of time—or get something done in a set amount of time. For example, if you want to change your eating habits, commit to cutting out fast food or grains every day for a month, or promise yourself you’ll eat breakfast each morning. Or perhaps you want to organize your home—so set out to spend 30 minutes each night or two hours each Sunday organizing a different area of your home.
Sticking with something for 30 days makes it much more likely you’ll develop this into a long-term habit—you’ll be used to doing it and it will be easier for you to naturally want to keep it going. You’ll also find that you’ve generated some self-confidence by giving yourself a shorter span of time to keep at it. If even 30 days seems daunting to you, try 10 days. Tony Robbins is a big proponent of this method—do something for 10 days in a row and if you like it and you’re feeling good, keep it going!
Sit back and think about something you’ve always wanted to try, set up a 30-day plan for how to achieve it (or tackle part of it) and then keep it to yourself. But be sure to let us know if it works for you!