Don’t talk about your goals.

I just returned home from a weekend in Laguna Beach. Like every resort town (or any town, for that matter!), Laguna oozes with its own distinct character. The local businesses and people comprise the town’s culture, and there was one aspect in particular that I noticed about the people: they all speak in the future tense.

“I’m going to … [fill in something great here]”

Personally, I prefer speaking in the past tense. Notice the difference:

“I’m going to start a business.”

“I started a business.”

Which narrator would you prefer to be? The latter? Me too. So, how do you get to the point where you can talk about your accomplishments vs. your goals? Don’t talk about your goals.

The human mind works on a rewards system. You create a goal, and you work toward that goal for the reward aspect. Maybe you want to lose weight. Why do you want to lose weight? To fit into a new summer bikini, or to stay fit enough to partake in a sport or recreation you enjoy? The weight loss is the goal, but the bikini and sport are the rewards. The same is true regarding business goals. Let’s say you want to grow your business 15 percent in the next six months. Why? Maybe it’s for a more secure financial position; maybe it’s because you value having a reputation as a savvy business person. Whatever it is, you’re working toward the goal (growing your business) so that you can enjoy the rewards (financial security and social value).

Well, when you talk about those goals, and you receive positive feedback, your brain processes that feedback as a reward. So if you’re already experiencing the pleasure of the reward associated with a goal before actually achieving said goal, there is far less motivation for bothering with the goal in the first place. Perception is reality, as the adage goes, and it’s particularly true in the case of goals.

Think about the last time you set a new goal. Now think about a time you when you were talking about that goal with someone and how excited you got and how… accomplished you felt. Strange, isn’t it? By talking about the goal, you created the perception that you were actively working toward it, even though you were merely talking about it. Your brain processed that perception as a reality, and you got a little taste of the reward before taking your first step.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the more you talk about a goal, the less likely it is that you will accomplish that goal.

To be clear: I’m not suggesting that you never share your goals with loved ones or close friends — you need a sounding board to bounce around new ideas! But the next time you’re at a networking event or a coffee shop with an aquaintance and get the itch to start gabbing about that book you’re writing (you haven’t typed a word yet), shut it. Won’t it feel better to be able to tell them about your new book once it’s on the shelves at Barnes & Noble?

I’m not a psychologist, but Ramit Sethi is, and he talked a bit about this concept on a podcast I found. I’ve found it an incredible mental exercise, and — guess what? — I’ve accomplished more goals in the last month than I have in a year.

Looking forward to your success story,

Megan Tackett

Go back to The Write People.

Have an issue you want addressed? Leave me a comment with your suggestion, and I’ll tackle it on my next blog entry!

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