Why Communicating Your Goals Might Be One of the Best Career Decisions You Can Make

Zack Minott

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In 2009, Psychology Today published an article featuring a study conducted by psychology professor, Peter Gollwitzer. The takeaway was that if you want to succeed, you need to keep your goals to yourself. According to Gollwitzer, sharing your goals and receiving praise and encouragement for them can trick your brain into making you feel like you’ve already accomplished that goal, thus making you less likely to work towards it.

Though many experts agree with this theory, I’d argue that sometimes it’s better to share and communicate your goals. It’s what I did early on in my career and it has set me on a path to a bright future in my field.

But it’s not as easy as just simply sharing your goals. It’s crucial to be strategic and specific about it.

Create long-term goals backed by a plan

When I first started working at my company, one of the first things I did was told the CEO what my goals were.

I told him that I ultimately wanted to become a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of a company and have the unique opportunity to lead and architect the technical direction of said company, not particularly his. I also told him that I wanted to achieve the most reputable and rare certification in my field which would in fact bolster the reputation of his consultancy if I were to achieve said certification.

Not only did I do that, but I presented to him how I planned to do it. I created a carefully crafted plan and timeline broken up into tiny little achievable goals that I imagined would lead me down that path.

I showed my ambition and dedication early on and he loved that.

In my experience, doing this is as important as goal-setting itself. What’s more, it’s proven to be linked with higher achievement as it instills an inner sense of motivation, confidence, and autonomy.

A Harvard study found that ten years after graduating, those who wrote down their goals with no concrete plan ended up making twice as much more money than those who didn’t set goals, and those who wrote down their goals with a concrete plan ended up making ten times more than the rest of the study group.

Needless to say, setting and writing down your goals with a concrete plan is a science-backed superpower that can be effectively used to propel you towards where you want to be.

But don’t fall into that trap of creating over-inflated goals just to not have any follow-through.

In the first few months working with this company, I backed up my goals with action and progress. Not only that, to ensure that he noticed and recognized the progress I was making I would regularly share weekly or daily progress reports that reflected the amount of work that I have gotten done.

In his book, “The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide,” John Somnez backs the power of delivering progress reports by preaching their ability to help you influence promotion by capturing attention.

Needless to say, my CEO noticed this and now we have multiple conversations about me potentially becoming the CTO of one of the current child companies we are working on building a couple of years down the road.

Not only that, but I’ve received more immediate feedback by being told I would be promoted to having the responsibility of becoming the technical lead of our ever-growing software development team — keep in mind I’ve worked for this company for only 8 months.

All of this stemming from the simple act of sharing my goals.

So, how can you get started?

Before you even communicate your goals, try writing down a specific goal broken up into a timeline of tinier milestones that you can easily follow. Be extremely specific and be prepared to constantly show that you’re working towards your goals daily and that you are actually making progress and increasing your worthiness of getting that said goal. Providing detailed weekly reports is something to deeply consider as well so that they can become aware of your constant progress without having to ask you. Be self-reliant.

So this raises the question:

Why do you need to communicate your goals in the first place? Why does this work? If you fail, wouldn’t that make you seem less reliable?

It increases the likelihood of follow-through

A study conducted by Howard Klein of Ohio State University Fisher College of Business found that people showed a greater commitment to their goals and performance when they shared their goals with people of higher status.

This is because, by doing so, you are more willing to persist when you share that goal with someone that you look up to. Whereas if you just share your goal with someone whose opinion you don’t care too much about, there lacks any driving motivation to impress upon the standards of their perception of you.

What you need to be wary of is “evaluation apprehension” which is a term psychology researchers use to describe the anxiety caused by supervision which in turn can either bolster your drive to accomplish a goal or negatively affect your willingness to work towards the goal because of all the pressure on your shoulders.

This is why creating a plan is so important, so that you avoid not setting a goal without any concrete direction. That plan itself is what makes the path much easier and more achievable as it allows you to think out what you do in advance and in turn make you feel more comfortable working towards that goal.

The good thing about this: external accountability

Yes, anxiety can potentially crush your overall productivity in achieving your goals, but I’m sure all of us can attest to not wanting to fail the expectations of those we look up to. Letting them down would make us feel like we are letting ourselves down.

This feeling in turn makes you more accountable, making you try even harder to accomplish your shared goal to impress upon leadership. You know that when you accomplish that goal, it makes you appear more reliable.

Maybe you share your goal thinking that they might just shrug it off and not really pay attention or care for your progress. Understandable, but if the person you share it with is really a great leader, they’ll want you to succeed.

Now they can’t keep tabs on you all the time so that’s why you need to share your progress and successes with them on a fairly regular basis. Maybe once or twice a week.

Sharing your progress is extremely beneficial towards self-motivation on top of increasing the positive impression that leadership has upon you.

When they see your progress, they’ll likely praise and notice you for your hard work. This article published in Fast Company actually states that sharing your progress can actually help motivate you to accomplish your goals as it serves to be a means of positive reinforcement.

To quote a line from that same article:

When no one is around to say anything about an incomplete task, it’s easy to push it to the next day and the next week.

Final thoughts

Share your goals, but be careful about who you tell.

Sometimes sharing your goals with the wrong person can lead to unnecessary praise or harsh criticism that both can hinder your mindset to actually completing a task.

On the other hand, keeping your goal to yourself can leave you without anyone to hold you accountable. Self-mastery and self-reliance can be difficult to harness.

Instead, try to share your goals with people who are more successful than you and who have the power to actually promote you.

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Cloud Developer | Philosopher | Avid Reader | Intellectual Explorer and Lifelong Learner | Athlete | Top Writer @Medium

Santa Ana, CA
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