Shhh! Keeping Quiet May Help You Achieve Your Goals

Shhh! Keeping Quiet May Help You Achieve Your Goals

Shouldn’t you announce your goals so friends can support you? Isn’t it good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects? Doesn’t the law of attraction mean you should state your intention and visualise the goal is already yours? Nope.

Image remixed from Shutterstock.

Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” – and recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?”

Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness”.

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols”.

A related test found that success on one sub-goal (eating healthy meals) reduced efforts on other important sub-goals (going to the gym) for the same reason.

It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’ve joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 10kg, so kick my arse if I don’t, OK?”)

Shut Up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them [Derek Sivers]

Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur, programmer, musician and creator of CD Baby. His latest book is Anything You Want. Read his blog here.


  • I think the balance is mentioned right at the end of the article- keep your goals secret, but widen the secret a little to include one trusted confidential friend who will kick your butt and keep you accountable to your goal.

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