Start, Stop & Change: keeping goals secret

I have a friend, let’s call her Sally, who won’t share her New Year’s resolutions until months into the year…when she confesses her resolution has fallen by the wayside.

  • Three years ago her New Year’s resolution was to stop complaining. How do I know this? Because it slipped out in a conversation in May when Sally was complaining about breaking her resolution.
  • Then a couple years ago her goal was to start a regular, sustained practice of yoga. Her revelation and confession that it didn’t stick came at the end of March.
  • Last year she resolved to finish one of the screenplays she’d started. Again, revealing this goal to her friends—along with owning up to not having stuck with her intention—came mid-summer.

I don’t want you to be under the wrong impression: My friend is no layabout or loafer.

In fact, Sally’s a dynamo in her professional life where setting and achieving goals is routine and seems to come easy. She has a lot of confidence in her abilities to achieve professionally, but something different shows up when it comes to her personal life.

Shout them from the rooftop…

This year I asked Sally if she would be willing to share her New Year’s resolutions at the actual start of the new year.

Share them with me, share them with her friends and family, the grocery store clerk, her mailman, the dog walker…

Her response: Oh no, I couldn’t do that. I don’t want anyone to know if I don’t reach my goal. I don’t want everyone to know if I fail.

Keeping goals secret doesn’t work on three fronts:

  1. You don’t receive support and accountability that comes from sharing your aspirations with others.
  2. Falling short isn’t so bad if you learn from what doesn’t work and adjust accordingly. But that rarely happens if it’s all or nothing, and we sweep the “failure” under the rug.
  3. You aren’t showing up in the world as your authentic self.

The first one is bad enough; the second one may be even worse; and the third one is soul-deadening.

Hiding yourself away

Keeping your goals a secret means you’re keeping a part of yourself hidden. There are so many downsides to this behavior (believe me, I speak from personal experience), but perhaps the most costly is simply not showing up in the world as who you truly are.

What could be sadder—both for yourself in hiding away AND for the world deprived of who you really are?

Now I understand if your goal is to leave your corporate job and start a business, you may not be eager to share this aspiration with your boss.

But most of us have goals that ARE shareable—with at least some of the people in our lives.

However, many of us are stingy with our goals. Too reticent. Too fearful. Too insecure.

I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and share a goal. Who will you tell today?