Should You Tell People About Your Goals and Ambitions?

Soooo, apparently I waited until February to write my first post this year… And it’s about goals.

Well, I figure that a lot of people may be a bit hesitant to set goals this year considering how last year went. I certainly was.

But old habits and all that. Every year, I write down my goals for that year, usually on the first or second day of the year. This year was no different. But halfway through, I was like, will I even be able to do some of this?

In South Africa, we went into the new year still in lockdown as I’m sure many countries were and perhaps are. Just last night the president let us know about the easing of some restrictions. While I feel more positive about this year than last year, I think it’s still going to be a long road ahead. And what will the new normal be?

Despite the uncertainty, I still think it’s important to strive to become better and do more of what you love. That which you can do anyway. And there is a lot if you think about it.

But, unlike 2018, I am not going to tell you what I wrote down. And the reason is science. Yip, for real.

If I wrote this too late and you’re already working hard to reach your goals, check this post from 2019 if you need some encouragement.

The Science of Keeping Your Goals to Yourself

According to this study, people are more likely to succeed at their goals when they don’t tell other’s what they are.

This is because when you tell people about your goals, and they react positively, it subconsciously makes you feel like you already achieved that goal.

In my non-scientist brain, I figure that’s due to dopamine. It’s a neurotransmitter responsible for movement, learning, attention, mood and in particular, that feeling of reward. It also affects your behaviour.

Who doesn’t feel great when people respond in a positive way to them, or they get congratulated for a job well done.

I guess your brain can fake it. Release a lovely shot of dopamine when your friends and family respond in a supportive way towards your goal.

Having said that, there is also a good reason to share your goals. But it needs to be done in the right way.

What is the Intention-Action Gap?

The intention-action gap is basically every time you’ve thought, “I should exercise”, and yet found yourself sitting on the couch binging Netflix instead.

It’s not just exercise, it’s with anything that you know you should do because it would be to your benefit and end up not doing it.

It’s something that’s often frustrated me. Even with activities that I actually enjoy, for example, exercising… I know it sounds crazy, but yes, I like exercising. But when I feel super lazy, or it’s cold, getting up off that couch is a struggle.

Even with practising my instruments. I don’t struggle so badly with practising harder things on my guitar because I am at a level where it doesn’t sound too horrendous.

As in the tone is good even if the timing is out because my fingers can’t quite move fast enough or contort into that funny shape seamlessly yet.

But with the violin? It’s because I love it that I persevere. Sometimes, I dread practice because I hate making those horrible sounds. This is also the second biggest reason for stopping a practice session early. My ears can only take so much. The first reason is my arms and shoulders get tired.

And yet, the only way to improve is to practice. My teacher likes to say that if it sounds good, I’m practising the wrong thing. It’s so true, unfortunately.

I’m sure it’s like that for any artistic pursuit or practical activity. Even getting info to stick in your mind when it comes to theory is difficult.

Couple that with the fact that I am a chronic procrastinator. It pains me to admit this, but I thought about this post two weeks ago already. For shame.

The sad truth is that often we don’t treat ourselves with the same consideration and respect as we do others.

You wouldn’t bail on a friend, constantly forget to feed your dog or only ever feed your kids junk food… I hope.

But yourself? We constantly “bail” on ourselves.

How to Tell Someone About Your Goals the Right Way

Not telling anyone may be hard for some of us. On one hand, the pressure of telling someone can really suck.

But if you have wonderfully supportive family and friends who accept you despite your failings, it’s more about support. Here’s how to do it right.

Tell Your Mentor or Role Model

If you are going to tell someone, tell someone you look up to. Someone you don’t want to let down.

Of course, no one wants to let their friends or family down. And if they really care about you, they care about your goals and want you to reach your potential.

But it’s different from having a mentor or a role model that has already achieved what you want to achieve. The desire to make them proud or approve as you achieve the same as they did or even surpass their accomplishment is stronger than someone that wants you to be happy and do well in general.

It’s not always possible to develop a relationship or even an acquaintanceship with our role models. But if you can do this somehow, this person would be the best person to tell.

Otherwise, tell someone that you truly respect. Their opinion must really matter to you. Otherwise, you’ll never have that sense of responsibility and determination.

Rely on Joint Effort Instead of Accountability

We are all busy with life and our own goals. Time is short.

It depends on the stage of life that your confidant is in, but chances are that even if they have time, they aren’t going to chastise you every time you drop the ball.

Instead, get your person involved. If you know you aren’t going to get up to exercise by yourself, arrange to meet a friend or family member and exercise together.

This works for many types of goals. But unfortunately, some goals are solitary tasks.

Use the Right Language: Talk About Plans not Goals

If you can’t only tell your mentor or get someone to join you in reaching your goal, rather focus on the plan you’re using to reach your goal.

It’s great if there is a way to measure your progress or if you can have your person hold you accountable after you’ve executed your plan for x amount of days.

Whether that’s showing that you’re fitter after two weeks, can give a summary of the story said you would learn, let your friend read that rough draft, or can play that song you said you were learning.

Simply put, having proof that you actually went through with your plan is going to keep you accountable. This is especially good, because some goals can take months, a year or even many years to reach.


Along with setting your goals correctly, speaking about them correctly or not at all can make all the difference between success and failure.

May the rest of 2021 be amazing. If nothing else, look at it as an adventure.

And may you achieve what you set out to do this year 🙂

Feature image by: Zen Chung on Pexels

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