The myth of telling people about your goals

December 30, 2017

There’s a certain myth floating in the ether which essentially says that when you tell people about your dreams and goals, they’re less likely to happen, or you’re less likely to make them happen. This isn’t a very prevalent myth mind you, but more of a subtlety. Sometimes, I’ll have told someone about my goals, especially very short term goals, and, after failing to succeed on them, I’ll curse and bemoan myself for having shared them with other people.

There is some truth to this belief, but not for reasons you’d expect. Quite simply, you’re more likely to give up on your goals than persevere. Like 99% more likely. The default outcome of our bold goals is failure. It requires a special forcefulness and ironclad commitment to see a goal through. Hell—it requires vehemence and strict commitment to even check a minute task off your todo list. The energy you require for something grander is unfathomable.

When you give up on your goal, or project, or idea, or resolution, it’s not because you told someone about it prematurely—it’s because giving up and failing was the likely outcome anyway.

Now, telling people too early on about your goals does have some effect, especially for the faint of heart. Namely, you may be easily swayed by feedback and criticism at this point. You tell your friend about this project you’re really excited about, and the friend gives you some feedback that makes you question your endeavor. First, if you easily accept that input and it sways your efforts in a negative direction, then you were likely just looking for an easy way out anyway. And if some feedback from a friendly face is enough to derail you, then it’s best you exit now than face the one-hundred-million-times more scary monsters that lie ahead. If you can’t handle early input, you won’t be able to handle whatever comes next. In which case, your quitting was caused not by your friend’s feedback, but by your lack of resoluteness to begin with, coupled with the default tendency of our actions to falter.

Personally, the only reason I sometimes avoid telling friends and others about my endeavors early on is not because I am afraid of being voodoo cursed, but because I’d like to see how serious I am about it first, and decrease the 99% chance of giving up to at least 70. If I shared with everyone my precarious plans as soon as they hatched, I’d quickly dilute my reputation as someone who doesn’t finish what he starts (which is all of us, really.) This is not a huge deal, but I prefer sharing something only when I’m mostly convinced of it myself.

So share your plans as much and as early as you wish, keeping in mind that do or don’t, 4/5 of your endeavors will likely fail anyway. Afterwards, you’ll scramble searching for a reason why, and the easiest one will be: “I knew I shouldn’t have told X!” But poor little X had nothing to do with it. It’s you that can’t finish what you start.