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If You Want to Follow Through on a Project — Don't Tell Anyone

If You Want to Follow Through on a Project — Don't Tell Anyone

This happens to me all the time. I announce that I'm going to do something — take more photographs, write an essay, take guitar lessons — and after telling a million people I'm going to do it, I let it fizzle.

What gives? This interesting essay suggests that one reason is that when you announce your goal, you're making an "identity goal," or announcing an intention to "commit to an identity," — in my case, Photographer, Essayist, or Guitar Player.

For some reason the pressure is on, then, to be that identity, and you're less likely to follow through. In an experiment, researchers who published their findings in Psychological Science had students who wanted to be psychologists write down two things that week they were going to do to commit to that goal. They were told someone would follow up with them later to see how they did.

The catch? Half of the students were told, after they wrote down what actions they would take, that no one would actually look at their list or follow up with them. The fascinating conclusion to their research: the students who thought no one would follow up actually spent more time working on their goal than the students who knew someone would check on them.

So now I will run off and work on something — I just can't tell you what it is.

Join The Conversation
fashionplate525 fashionplate525 8 years
This works for me!
Calimie Calimie 8 years
Pistil, are you me? I feel exactly the same way. If I feel I *have to* do anything, I won't, no matter how fun it might be (like watching a film). I hate doing stuff I'm forced to and telling friends about such new goals would be a source of pressure.
aeschere aeschere 8 years
this is definitely how i work.
heatherhas heatherhas 8 years
This is pretty true for me.
bransugar79 bransugar79 8 years
I'm naturally lazy so I actually tend to tell people about a goal when I really want to achieve it. Othewrwise I can talk myself out of it and no one knows but I hate having those so what happened to .... conversations with people so I end up doing a lot more if other know ahead of time.
cakeshinigami cakeshinigami 8 years
performance anxiety.
sourcherry sourcherry 8 years
I don't know. When I tell people about a certain goal, that often makes me feel too pressured, and the whole thing becomes a source of stress instead of realization/pleasure. So, unless it's really embarrassing to tell people that I've put that certain goal aside, I tend to give up more easily. But when it's something I really need to do and don't have a lot of motivation to do so, it can be better to tell my friends...
French-Kiss French-Kiss 8 years
Yeah that is really interesting. I'm that kind of person !
Pistil Pistil 8 years
Hmm, I would call this my "homework logic", meaning: If it's something I *have* to do, I'm more inclined to get lazy about it. I'm doing it for other people, as opposed to wanting to do it for myself. If there's no pressure, then I'm more inclined to take on projects that I want to do, just for the fun of it or out of personal interest. Kind of like "chore" versus "hobby".
ameliajc ameliajc 8 years
Hmm this is interesting because I had always heard the exact opposite. It seemed to make sense to me that if everyone knows there's more pressure on you to follow through and not let your goal fizzle out, which would be easier if you're the only one that knew about it. In fact, I used this principle this year with my goal of running a half marathon. I told EVERYONE so then I couldn't back out on it. I wonder what other people's thoughts are on this.
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