Keeping My Cards Close

Why I rarely announce my goals ahead of time

Yesterday I eluded to some new plans for 2015 but I purposefully avoided going into any kind of detail. I wasn’t lying when I said things rarely go as planned when viewed from a year out, but there’s also another reason for my aloofness, premature satisfaction.

I just so happened to see this article today about why announcing your New Years Resolutions makes you less likely to complete them. It’s a really interesting phenomena and it happens to be something I’ve long assumed but wasn’t completely sure of.

I’ve never been one to make resolutions, the whole idea of basing your success and failure on the start and end of the calendar year seemed prone to failure. I do set goals for myself throughout the year though. In the past thirty years I found that when I announced the goals, I’d never get much past the announcement and planning bit. Yet, when I set the goals without telling anyone, I’d almost always get past the initial starting phase and probably complete 40% of them. That 40% might seem small, but I’ve found things often change mid-stretch and instead of seeing out a plan simply because I had set a goal, I’ll follow the change with a new goal—or maybe no goal at all.

The best example I have was when I set the goal to leave carpentry for the web industry before my thirtieth birthday. I had set the deadline on my twenty-ninth birthday, but I didn’t tell a soul, not even Steph. I had already been progressing toward the switch for a few years, plenty of people knew that, but I never actually proclaimed that I was striving to hit that specific date. I just so happened to reach that goal with a month to spare, and with the amount of work it took, I can entirely see myself having given up once I had satisfied my self-identity.

Now, setting a goal internally doesn’t guarantee it will end in success. Like I said before, I have probably only hit 40% of the goals I kept to myself, but that’s better than the success rate of the goals I announced to the world. Actually, I can only think of one, and that’s the typecards project, though it still took me forever to launch it and it died pretty quickly due to my loss of interest in it as soon as it was live (I’m pretty sure I satisfied my self-identity the minute I announced it was live).

In the end, you still have to be realistic about your goals. Just because you set them and keep them to yourself, doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the desire, time, knowledge or support (yes, even if you keep the goal a secret you still need the support of those around you) to see them through. Setting goals you’re capable of completing—no “I will become President in the next year”—is even more important than keeping them to yourself.

Good luck, now go kick 2015’s ass!