It's New Year's day 2017 and everyone's social media feeds are lighting up with resolutions. I'm publicly starting on Tim Ferriss's popular Slow Carb diet this year. However, I also have a series of personal goals that I strongly want to stick to but don't want to share with anyone. I believe that sharing some goals can result in decreased motivation to actually accomplish them.
People like sharing goals and these goals are often shared on the major social media platforms. Usually goals shared this way are posted to either start a conversation or to make the person posting feel good. However, I find that goals I readily share without any other accountability are often more difficult to accomplish for the primary reason that they are sometimes misunderstood.
When I share that I'm going on a diet, the reader may assume that I'm out of shape or obese. If they find out that I'm not, or if they know me personally to be in pretty good shape, they may question my motivations for putting myself on a diet. Statements creep up like, “Why do you think you need to go on a diet?” or “You don't look out of shape to me”. While these statements are sometimes nice to hear it can be demotivating to have peers question my goals. It can even get me questioning why I have set these goals in the first place. Questioning why I'm doing something isn't very productive when I'm in the thick of things trying to continue to produce results.
Another problem with posting goals on social media platforms is the immediate reward. These platforms are built to optimize this good feeling and give a sense of reward without actually having to accomplish the goal that is being posted. Why get a reward without actually doing the work? Why risk others misunderstanding the goal? Why impede progress toward that goal by sharing it?
Accountability for shared goals
I mentioned accountability before and I think this is the answer to being able to actually accomplish shared goals. Accountability is simply being responsible for making a goal and sticking to it. If there is a goal that absolutely needs to be shared, then it should be shared after being backed by some form of peer pressure or self-punishment.
Peer-pressure helps because it's embarrassing to admit to someone that their expectations were not met and that the goal remains unaccomplished. That uncomfortable conversation is it's own form of punishment and can definitely be motivating. I'm starting the Slow Carb diet with a good friend who I know will be disappointed if I stop the routine. By being tagged in a post with him and publicly stating that we are starting the goal together there may be more embarrassment from others later if I don't accomplish the goal. However, my main motivators are the end result and keeping from having that uncomfortable conversation with my friend.
Self-punishment of some sort is very helpful for accomplishing goals. There's a website built specifically for keeping people accountable to their goals called stickk. New users can go on the site and create a goal for themselves backed by a financial obligation to accomplish that goal. Should they fail to accomplish their goal, some chosen amount of money will be donated to a charity of their choice. The punishment of losing money is a strong motivator and the charities that are chosen should be organizations that the user doesn't particularly like, but that will benefit from a donation. These have been dubbed “anti-charities”.
My choice pick, and the number one top-yielding charity, is The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
If I want to share a goal but I'm not feeling like creating some form of peer-pressure or self-punishment to set some form of accountability, then I'm going to try to not share that goal. I find it too difficult to accomplish because of misunderstanding, pre-mature rewards, and lack of accountability. Next time I share something I'll definitely be thinking about this and I encourage you to as well.