Keep your goals to yourself

Delaying your gratification makes a difference in whether you achieve your goals or not.

I like to tell my son when he wants something now that one of the hallmarks of being a human being is that we have the ability to delay our gratification. What does this mean?  It means that we have the ability to choose not to receive a reward right now.  Why would we choose that?  Well, in order to get a better reward later, of course.

This is just really a fancy, kind of scientific way to describe the concept of saying, we have the ability to plan for the future AND, that’s a good thing.

But there’s a problem. It’s not enough to make plans. In order to be successful, we generally have to do a bit of work to make our dreams happen. Sure, you can wish upon a star if you want, but successful people don’t stop there. They do the work that is required to make their dreams a reality.

Here’s where delaying your gratification really matters.  It turns out, that if you tell other people your goals, and they congratulation you on setting your goals, your brain treats that congratulation and a reward and – having achieved you reward, you don’t need to work so hard on it anymore. And that’s actually what happens.

I realize I seem to quote Derek Sivers a lot – but he’s right on a bout a lot of things. Here is a Ted talk he did on this topic: 

What he says is that the more we share our goals and plans with others, the more likely we are to feel like we’ve already accomplished them and we mistake talking about our goals with doing something to achieve them. And because we think we’ve already worked on this when we talk about it, we don’t put as much effort into it as if we had kept our goal to our self. Apparently when we talk about it, our brains perceive it as real and that’s good enough for the brain.

I don’t know about you, but for me, perceived success ain’t nearly as good as real success. I’m not afraid of doing the hard work required to make my business a success. I make sure that when I talk about my business goals that I also emphasize the fact that they aren’t a reality yet – and that I still have a lot of work to do to make them a reality. Because unless I make it happen, nothings going to happen.

Don’t mistake your dreams for reality and don’t fall prey to the positive thinking movement’s non-science approach.  Thinking about what you want isn’t going to make it magically happen. And imagining it’s already happened actually makes it less likely to happen because it makes you less likely to put in the effort to see your project through to completion.

If you want to be successful, stay firmly grounded in reality and do the hard work required to make it happen.

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