Don't Talk About Your Goals if You Want to Achieve Them

Talking about your goals with other people affects your motivation and the biology of your brain. In fact, it can prevent you from achieving them. We explain why.
Don't Talk About Your Goals if You Want to Achieve Them
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 29 March, 2023

Have you ever heard that you shouldn’t tell anyone about your goals until you’ve fulfilled them? As with many popular sayings, this is good advice. And it has nothing to do with superstition. In fact, there are proven reasons that can lead you to fail if you share with others the goals that you haven’t yet achieved. The concept is clear, you shouldn’t talk about your goals if you want to achieve them. We’re going to explain why.

It can apply to various everyday situations, from thinking about moving home, to wanting to start a business or lose weight. That said, it’s normal to want to share your plans with others. In fact, self-disclosure  (sharing valuable information about yourself) helps to generate intimacy in your relationships. However, before doing so, you need to take certain aspects into consideration.

brothers talking
It’s important to consider who you tell your goals to since many people can make you doubt yourself and hesitate.

Don’t talk about your goals to anyone

In order to achieve your goals, it’s crucial that you believe that it’s possible to achieve them. You might have great conviction in your plans. On the other hand, you may have certain doubts and fears and feel rather uncertain. When you share your goals with others before achieving them, you expose yourself to receiving opinions and advice of all kinds. Many of them are likely to be unencouraging.

For example, those close to you may have a pessimistic view of your plans. Therefore, they might constantly emphasize what could go wrong and encourage you to abandon them. Even if they don’t have bad intentions, their comments can make you doubt yourself and hesitate. They might even cause you to build a psychological wall that really restricts you.

Your motivation may vanish

Biology can also play a role for or against you in terms of achieving your goals. Indeed, success depends, to a large extent, on neurotransmitters. When you release dopamine in response to a stimulus or an action that you’ve carried out, you experience pleasure and feel rewarded. This leads you to want to repeat the action or to continue along the same path. In other words, it motivates you to continue.

When you set a goal and break it down into small sub-goals, accomplishing each one gives you a pleasant and comforting feeling of accomplishment. Consequently, you continue until the end.

However, when you frequently talk about your goals and receive support and social approval, you’re receiving the same shot of dopamine, but you’re not really moving forward, you’re just talking about how you’re going to do so. Therefore, the motivation you need disappears because, as has been proven, you get the premature feeling of already having reached that goal.

Watch out for the feeling of failure

When you tell other people about your goals, it’s normal for them to take an interest in them and ask you regularly what progress you’ve made. If for any reason, you haven’t been able to move forward or not as far as you’d like, these conversations can leave you experiencing a sense of failure and inadequacy.

Thus, you lose confidence in yourself. Moreover, by not receiving positive social feedback, the levels of serotonin in your brain decrease. Since this neurotransmitter is essential for you to concentrate, it’s highly likely that it’ll become increasingly difficult for you to move toward your goal.

Excessive pressure and stagnation

Finally, you shouldn’t talk about your goals because it can lead you to not achieving them. One of the fundamental elements that prevent you from reaching your objectives is procrastination. This is the tendency to leave what you have to do for later, to postpone it, and to entertain yourself with simpler and unnecessary tasks. You may think that this is down to laziness. But, in reality, it’s a reflection of fear.

When you see a task as too demanding or complicated, don’t trust yourself to do it, or feel really pressured to carry it out, you procrastinate. You might not do it consciously but it’s a way of evading the responsibility you feel you can’t deal with.

By talking about your goals with other people, you increase the pressure you’re feeling about them. This is because you no longer feel that you’re trying to achieve them only for yourself, but now you must also meet the expectations of those you’ve spoken to about them. In effect, you must show them that you can achieve them. If you have a tendency to procrastinate, this can completely block you.

worried woman thinking
If you count your goals and tend to procrastinate, you may experience more stress by talking about them.

Don’t talk about your goals, stay silent

Of course, the decision as to whether you talk about your goals or not is completely up to you. However, you should consider how it might affect your motivation and your ability to complete them.

If you really feel that you want to involve others in your plans, try to talk to them about the steps you’re taking now, and not your final objective. Focus on the tasks and the process, rather than on the anticipated result. By doing this, you’re more likely to stay positive, active, and focused.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Gollwitzer, P. M., Sheeran, P., Michalski, V., & Seifert, A. E. (2009). When intentions go public: Does social reality widen the intention-behavior gap?. Psychological science20(5), 612-618.
  • Sylwester, R. (1997). The Neurobiology of Self-Esteem and Aggression. Educational Leadership54(5), 75-79.
  • Wise, R. A. (2004). Dopamine, learning and motivation. Nature reviews neuroscience5(6), 483-494.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.