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Monday, August 8, 2011

As a Runner, should I tell people about my goals?

pre-amble: I originally wrote this in March, and just discovered I never posted it.  The first chunk is how I felt then, I've added current comments and thoughts below, and you'll notice that my position on this topic has shifted a bit. Cheers!

Goals....what a loaded word. For some the use of such a word forebodes impending failure, for a few it means success. To most, it's a bit of both worlds: You win some, you lose some.

Today I'd like to discuss the importance of keeping goals to yourself.  This may seem counter intuitive, but I'd like to explain why I, and many others, feel that telling people about your goals dooms you for failure right out of the gate.

Have you ever had an idea, a goal perhaps and felt immediate pride in deciding to conquer it? Perhaps you decided to shed some weight, save some money, get a new job or spend more time reading your favorite author.  As soon as you settled on that goal you felt driven, you felt great...finally you were going to tackle something that has been looming over you for what might seem like ages. Ever felt like this? I know I do on a nearly daily basis....but what we choose to do next is the single most important step in determining our eventual success. What ever could it be?

Over the years I've come to learn that if you want to succeed at setting goals and completing them, keep them to yourself.

That's right...there's a little known phenomenom that I've noticed over the years that occurs once you've told someone that you plan on doing X, seeing Y or being Z. What do you think happens when you tell someone the good news that say, you're planning on running a marathon. You get instant gratification from their vote of confidence ('Good for you', 'You are amazing!', etc) and you quickly forget to put your plan in motion because this instant gratification feeds your reward system, and for all intents and purposes, you may as well have already completed the goal at this point.

I used to notice this in many of the things I undertook...when I stepped back and analyzed why I wasn't successful at following through with my goals, I realized it was because I had already received some reward for simply deciding on the goal and announcing it to my friends, family and coworkers. It took me ages to figure this out, but in today's wonderfully wide world web, you can learn it today, in under 5 minutes. Oh, you're welcome!

aside: This is my most current position on what to do with your goals, to publicize or not.

So, I used to feel that telling anyone about your goals was dooming yourself for failure, and as I have learned that not everything is black and white in this world of ours, I've realized that telling some people certain things can in fact increase your chances of succeeding in your goal.

It turns out there are people in our lives that love nothing more than to help us succeed in our goals. Find those people and accept their helping offers. These are the people that motivate, excite, ground and focus you in your goals.  The people who sit by, simply giving you a high five or a kind word, are best left out of your plans. These people will simply feed your reward system far too soon in the process: keep them for later on, when you're nearing the end and need a second, third or fourth wind to get you across the finish line.

So the next time you set a running goal and want to succeed, pick your allies wisely and I can guarantee you will surprise even yourself!

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