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Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them.

Shouldn’t you announce your goals, so friends can support you?

Isn’t it good networking to tell people about your upcoming projects?

Doesn’t the “law of attraction” mean you should state your intention, and visualize the goal as already yours?


Tests done since 1933 show that people who talk about their intentions are less likely to make them happen.

Announcing your plans to others satisfies your self-identity just enough that you’re less motivated to do the hard work needed.

In 1933, W. Mahler found that if a person announced the solution to a problem, and was acknowledged by others, it was now in the brain as a “social reality”, even if the solution hadn’t actually been achieved.

NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer has been studying this since his 1982 book “Symbolic Self-Completion” (pdf article here) - and recently published results of new tests in a research article, “When Intentions Go Public: Does Social Reality Widen the Intention-Behavior Gap?

Four different tests of 63 people found that those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.

Once you’ve told people of your intentions, if gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”

You have “identity symbols” in your brain that make your self-image. Since both actions and talk create symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it “neglects the pursuit of further symbols.”

A related test found that success on one sub-goal (eating healthy meals) reduced efforts on other important sub-goals (going to the gym) for the same reason.

It may seem unnatural to keep your intentions and plans private, but try it. If you do tell a friend, make sure not to say it as a satisfaction (“I’ve joined a gym and bought running shoes. I’m going to do it!”), but as dissatisfaction (“I want to lose 20 pounds, so kick my ass if I don’t, OK?”)

Thanks to Wray Herbert’s article about this.

Reader Comments (7)

I long as you pick the right people to talk to.

If you're going to sit around and talk about how you're doing to do stuff, rather than doing it, that is obviously a problem. Plenty of musicians and songwriters do that with their so called "networking" at bars and clubs...

But if you're going to set up what Napoleon Hill calls a mastermind group, talking about your goals can be very high use of your time, because the people around you are going to help you with them.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hooper

I also disagree - it really depends on primarily what plans you're talking about, and (close) second, the social sphere in which you're discussing it. Discussing ideas and drawing support from your peers is essential in any artistic development - also impossible to get offered help if you never state your intentions.

I see the frustration that drives this way of thinking though, as there is an incredible amount of hot air floating around - always. To quote James Murphy: "Everybody keeps on talking about it, nobody's getting it done". (However that too can be a catalyst to the right person!). However, if you're serious about what you do, you'll mix your metaphors and make sure you keep that hot air at arms length.

No offence, but stats can be pulled out to support absolutely anything. I'd much rather hear a few interesting case-histories that show the benefits of both sides, as I do understand that introspective thinking (aka "Talking it over with yourself") is very useful in certain instances. As with most everything, there's a balance to be acheived.

However, your last comment about satisfaction / dissatisfaction is spot on - it really is more how you phrase things, both to yourself and others, that makes the difference - some home-brew psychology goes a long way!


June 18 | Unregistered CommenterEric K

This is one of the few posts I will disagree with Derek on.. I believe the exact opposite. Stating your intention (especially in 2009 on the Internet) is one of the best ways to receive guidance as to the best way to achieve your objectives. Moreover, what you say in public these days becomes a written record that's hard to escape from.

I remember the Clinton administration use to put up what they called "trial balloons" to test the public's reaction to proposed policy shifts; it was a great way for them to test the waters prior to pulling the trigger on something.

For me, it's standard operating procedure to gauge reaction and interest prior settling on an exact path, and the more complicated the project or the bigger the objective - the more I air out my intentions. You will also find a lot of developers that put a 'road map' on their sites that outlines their intention to build new features and services. You can bet that the roadmap is rewritten to reflect customer feedback and interest...

Up until recently, most people were confined to introducing their intentions to a small circle of friends and associates. I am curious how having the ability (now in 2009) to introduce your intentions to a far broader audience via the internet or social networks, which may or may not include a larger pool or people that can give meaningful and relevant feedback, would change the results of the studies cited in this post?

Everyone is different, but I like to announce plans, obtain feedback, gauge reaction, and then adjust the direction of the ship.

I don't do everything I hang out there, but I don't do anything without airing it out first, and this has served me well over the last 25 years....

June 18 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Great post, Derek. I like your provocative angle and am enjoying the comments so far.

I think the point you make is a valid one. It's easier to take creative risks or go for big, big goals without an audience - at least at first.

With writers I life-coach (especially when early in conceiving a new work), I counsel them to protect their ideas (and enthusiasm) by keeping their intentions to themselves. I call this process "Drawing a Veil" (after C. Pinkola-Estes' term). (You can see #5 in this post to learn more about my method, if you're interested:

That said, once a creative project is well underway (and the writer is solid & confident in next steps), they often find collegial support very helpful, whether it comes in the form of a mastermind group, writers' group or writing partner.

For me, "to spill the beans or not to spill the beans" isn't an either-or proposition. :-)


I disagree particulary.

What about quit smoking? If you want to quit smoking, telling it friends ist the best way to do it!Iknow that! It makes you feel proud and if you let all you friends know it you have to do so!

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

yeah.....i feel like if you are looking to impress somebody, telling them about your plans beforehand will make you even more motivated to accomplish your plans because it will feel more like an obligation that you must fulfill to satisfy that person. In any other instance I'd say keep your mouth shut. :)


Chris Bracco is an aspiring producer/music biz entrepreneur. Chris currently attends Penn State University, working towards a major in Business Management and minor in Music Technology. He is also currently interning for Jive Records & Ariel Publicity, doing marketing & promotion for artists they represent. He also plays guitar in & manages a funky rap/rock quintet named "A.S.B.P.K."

If you would like to learn a bit more about Chris, please visit his personal e-portfolio, his blog or his band's website:
Chris Bracco's E-Portfolio
Tight Mix -- The Future of Music & Audio Recording
A.S.B.P.K. Music

If you would like to contact Chris, please don’t hesitate to e-mail him at

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterChris Bracco

I think modesty works for personal enrichment-type goals such as losing weight or learning a new skill or hobby, but in terms of professional endeavors, if you're always keeping your plans close to the chest then the law of attraction will tend to work against you.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterPat

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