Goals: to share or not to share?

I had reason to consider this week if you should share, publicly, your long-term ambitions.   I then remembered my first ever blog post lauded the importance dreaming big, and thus it is time to take some of my own medicine! 

Much has been written about goal-setting; in no small way aided by the cacophony of self-help books, promising a magic bullet for all your hopes and dreams, whether it’s weight loss, a new relationship, or jump-starting your career. Some of the bite-sized advice is very sensible:  set small goals, visualise the end result, keep yourself accountable, celebrate small wins.  “Coaching” is a vast church, and I was lucky to consult qualified experts across this spectrum for this blog posting, from NLP practitioners, to executive coaches, reiki healers, and transformational life coaches.  All have helped their clients achieve potent and multifarious results and laud the importance of goal setting. 

How, when, why and with whom to share your ambitions, however, seems slightly more nuanced.  Interestingly the business theorists are split in two distinct camps.  

In the “no” corner, strongly advising you to hide both your light under the bushel, along with your aims and aspirations.  So far, so very British.  Much safer not to embarrass yourself by stating your plans and then failing.    There are some psychology based valid arguments from this camp: 

If you receive premature praise for articulating the goal, in advance of delivery, it may rewire your happy chemical reward synapse which could make actually following through less likely.  If you receive praise for your intentions of the goal rather than the actual process to get there, it, again could undermine your efforts.  If you’re taking on a lofty goal, you could get negative feedback or hear about threats to your progress that could thwart your plans.  I can hear a lot of “if” in these statements, and frankly, in any of these scenarios, I would suggest you are probably hanging out with the wrong folk who are not invested in your success!

This “thinking small” mentality also ignores the huge power of crowd sourcing knowledge and contacts.  To keep a great idea, and any challenges in delivering it, to yourself, seems a crying shame.  Social media is a relatively modern phenomena which provides a vast and instant ecosystem to collaborate, get recommended, and be inspired.  This builds businesses –  ignore at your peril!  The joy of the internet is the way in which we can create communities, and is true now more than ever that your net worth is derived, fundamentally, from your network. 

Thus, I reject the pessimism and close mindedness of the “no” camp.  How awful to suffer from poverty of ambition, and to live your life convinced there isn’t enough economic abundance on the planet to go around.  Sharing is caring, and in broadcasting your successes and the lessons you learn on the way, you can enrich the businesses, and lives, of those around you.   Ambition, therefore, is not a dirty word! 

Let us embrace the “yes!” and look at some of the ways you can up your chances of achieving a goal, by shouting it from the rooftops.   Helpfully, a study by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, took 5 groups and trialled a variety of goal-setting methods.  By a significant margin, the most successful group of subjects followed a simple plan.   They wrote down and shared theirs goals with a friend, and then sent weekly progress reports to them.   Much has been written about the upsides of sharing a goal: you can gain clarity, refine your ‘why’, and the “peer pressure” call to decisive action, and hopefully, success. 

A more recent 2015 study, published by the American Psychological Association found that people are more likely to achieve their goals when they closely monitor their progress, and the chances of success are boosted if progress is publicly reported or physically recorded.   Candidly, this was one of my motivations for starting a blog! 

Crucially, of course you have to choose the right accountability partner.  Using someone at work who is gunning for your imminent demise due to office politics is probably not a good choice.  Someone you love and trust may be a better bet, as they are committed to helping you reach your goals, and will highlight any unintentional self-sabotage.  Seek out someone who will be brutally honest, yet kind  ssto you, and will celebrate any micro-goals on the way to your larger goal, which in turn is hugely motivational.   In fact, a Harvard Business Review article found that, though we often focus on how good it will feel to achieve long-term goals, it’s the power of small wins or achieving minor milestones that most dramatically increases your engagement with the process. 

Interestingly, A 2019 Journal of Applied Psychology study was very specific about the type of accountability partner that was most effective, with the greatest success occurring when a person chose someone they perceived to have a higher status than themselves.  No surprise, therefore, that businesses that have an active mentoring scheme have happier employees and are more profitable, according to the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning. 

The British are very quick to talk down their achievements – I’ve done business all over the world and  in my experience, our national personality is one of the most modest and sombre on the planet!    Thus in the next few weeks, when we publicly announce our intention to list on the London Stock Exchange in 2021 I have never been more motivated, nor indeed more personally nervous, in my life! 

Adventures of a unicorn is a business blog documenting the daily life of tech startup in hypergrowth.  Dacxi is a unique crypto business in the crowd lending space.  


All views expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now or will be affiliated.


I want to thank the following for sharing their expertise with me: Gavin Perrett, Vicky Barker, Laurie Traquair, Susan Kathleen. 

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