Are We Supposed to Tell Other People About Our Goals and Ideas or Not?

It was one of those ideas I absolutely could not get out of my head, no matter how hard I tried.

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During Project for Awesome 2015, I got an idea.

It was one of those ideas I absolutely could not get out of my head, no matter how hard I tried. Every once in awhile, you stumble upon an idea so intriguing you are almost immediately tempted to start shaping it into something real. The Novella Concept was one of those ideas.

I decided right away that, until it was time to announce the project, I wasn’t going to say a word about it to anyone. And I didn’t, other than asking a friend to help me brainstorm potential names for it. I did all the planning and preparations, buried my anxiety as deeply as I could and finally announced it on January 1, the first time I introduced the idea to the world.

Since then I have published two of 12 planned novellas and am now working on the third. Whether the project has been particularly successful thus far is a discussion for another post, BUT, what I can say is that not immediately telling the internet about my idea, in a lot of ways, actually helped me remain a lot more confident and excited in the weeks leading up to its launch.

This raises an important question when we’re talking about writing goals and sharing ideas for stories with other writers.

Should we? Is it better, or worse, to keep our goals and ideas to ourselves … or not?

Derek Sivers has a few things to say about this: mainly, that research has proven telling people about our goals makes us much less likely to achieve them. Here’s his TED Talk.

Science says that when we tell someone about an idea we have or a goal we are going to meet, we’re actually tricking our brains into thinking we’ve already made progress. So we’re much less likely to actually put in any of the work necessary to meet the goal, because, in our heads, we already have.

I like to think there are some situations this doesn’t apply to, ideas in particular. I also think, when Sivers pointed this out, he didn’t mean to say what many productivity bloggers have interpreted. This is just my opinion and I’m pulling from my personal experience here. If you have any other thoughts, I sincerely welcome your comments.

When Sivers and the research he cited warned us not to talk about our goals – ever – what he probably meant was, “Don’t post about your goals and ideas on Facebook for the entire world to see.” Not because someone else will take them from you or tear you down and discourage you, but because this psychological effect most likely increases depending on the number of people you tell.

So when we hear this, we’re probably discouraged because it means we have to keep it all to ourselves. That’s not necessarily true. Sometimes, you need an accountability partner. Or sometimes you need to talk through an idea with someone to hear their perspective or to hear yourself speak it out loud.

While I kept The Novella Concept a secret for only a few weeks – AND IT WAS SO HARD NOT TO TELL YOU – I have a friend, who is also a writer (my BGFFA, if you understand that reference, I will love you forever), who has exchanged ideas with me back and forth, one on one, for years. We used to sit in the same room with our laptops and work on separate writing projects together because talking through our ideas with each other motivated us to keep writing.

In a nutshell, keeping a secret from a large audience really motivated me to work as hard as I could until my project launched, but I have never found that sharing a goal or idea with one or two people has hindered my ability to achieve or execute it.

But I’m just one person. That’s my experience, and I am constantly going back and forth trying to figure out what I would say if anyone ever brought this up in conversation with me. Share an idea, or not? Wait a little while before sharing, or wait until it’s a real thing?

What do you think? Are there specific situations when it’s better to talk about your goals, or better to keep your ideas to yourself? Has not telling anyone about an idea or goal you had ever actually motivated you to work harder toward finishing or achieving it?

Image courtesy of ted.com.

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