Should You Tell People Your Goals? What the Research Says

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Have you ever gotten so excited about a big goal you’ve set that you wanted to tell everyone about it? While that enthusiasm is a good thing, you might also pause and wonder, should you tell people your goals? And if so, how?

Sharing your goals with others has been scientifically shown to increase the likelihood of achieving them because it gives you accountability, support, and feedback. But you have to be careful who you share your goals with, otherwise, you can get bad advice, lose confidence, or receive unhelpful judgment from others.

It might be easy to go posting about your goal on social media and think you’ve got it. But by thoughtfully planning ahead, you can take advantage of the benefits of telling others your goals. And avoid all the potential drawbacks of sharing them with the wrong people. 

Here we go!

Sharing Your Goals Can Make You More Likely to Achieve Them

The first bit of research we’ll look at is a review of 138 studies with a total of nearly 20,000 participants. They mostly looked at whether or not an intervention, or outside help, influenced how often people tracked their goals and how that helped those individuals achieve those goals. 

The review found that those interventions made a difference, but it also discovered the following:

“Moderation tests revealed that progress monitoring had larger effects on goal attainment when the outcomes were reported or made public, and when the information was physically recorded.”

In simpler terms, sharing your goals with others makes you more likely to achieve them. It’s summarized better in one of my favorite quotes:

“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” — Pearson’s Law

Consider the times you’ve had to be accountable to another person for your goals. Usually, this happens at work, where your boss gives you an assignment or you tell them about your goals to improve your productivity. 

When you know you have to tell another person if you did it or not, it’s much easier to stick to your goal. Otherwise, you might disappoint them or earn unwanted consequences.

Even better, telling others can give much-needed support. I often talk with my wife about my goals, for instance. She can quickly point out where there are flaws in my thinking or where I’m being overly optimistic. I can course correct and it’s much easier to reach my goals this way.

You might consider hiring a coach to help you stay accountable and help you see flaws in your own thinking.

Additionally, by making your goals public, you can connect with others who have the same goal to get extra support and encouragement.

Who You Share Your Goals With Matters

The second study we’ll look at, or set of studies, rather, identified a crucial aspect of telling people your goals. As one of the authors states:

“Contrary to what you may have heard, in most cases, you get more benefit from sharing your goal than if you don’t — as long as you share it with someone whose opinion you value.”

The trick, they discovered, is you have to confide in someone who you consider has higher status than yourself. 

If you were to tell your goals to people who you think have lower status, it wouldn’t do anything for you. Similar to if you didn’t tell anybody about your goals.

The simplest application for this is that in most cases, you shouldn’t be posting your goals on social media. Not only can this be self-serving and vain, but if you have any friends online that you consider as having lower social status than you, it’ll make it harder for you to achieve your goals.

The reason is that not everybody values you or your goals as highly as you do. If you tell your friend that you have a goal to build a side hustle but your friend doesn’t value that, it can destroy your confidence and make it all the more difficult to work on that dream you have.

Contrast that with sharing your goal with someone whose opinion you value highly and who you know will support you, and you can see the difference in how each will make you feel.

If you hire a coach, for instance, they’re going to listen to you, value your goals, and want to help you achieve anything. Or if not a coach you might consider a reliable friend or family member who you know won’t put you down.

Disadvantages of Telling People Your Goals

We’ve already seen briefly how telling the wrong people your goals can backfire. It’s hard to know who you can trust, sometimes, and I’ve seen that firsthand.

A while back I wanted to start my own company. As part of the preparations, I was working on creating a logo. 

I remember excitedly finishing some options and then sharing them and my goal with some family members only to hear nothing. It was discouraging and made it more difficult for me to continue with my goal to work for myself.

But it hit me that this was a totally normal thing to have happened, and I learned from it. The reason was that I was seeking validation from people who couldn’t give it to me. It was like trying to get milk at the pet store. It just wasn’t there. 

When I instead shared the goal with some online friends I had met around the same time, they boosted my confidence and helped me pick the right logo. 

This is just one of the reasons that you might find it tough to tell people your goals. You might also find that sharing your dreams brings:

  • Pressure and judgment when you feel people are looking down on you for what you want to accomplish. This might make you quit for fear of failure and disappointing them.
  • Lack of privacy at times that you’d be better off not airing your dirty laundry in front of the world.
  • Misguided advice when people who don’t know what they’re talking about want to tell you what they think you should do. Following their advice could be catastrophic to your success.
  • Stolen ideas if your goal is the kind that somebody else might take and implement before you do, like with a company or product.

It’s likely better to share your goals than not, however, as long as you plan ahead and prepare for these potential disadvantages. If you’re careful and tell the right person, you can avoid all of these at the same time.

Wrap Up

To summarize:

  • Telling people your goals is beneficial because it can bring added accountability, motivation, and support
  • Who you tell your goals to matters a great deal. Don’t share your goals with random people in the streets or online. Share them with people who you see as having higher status than you.
  • Sharing your goals could bring discouragement, misguided advice, or get your ideas stolen, but if you choose carefully who you share them with, you can overcome these.