Speak it? Or keep it a secret?
There’s a debate about whether to talk about your goals with other people or keep them to yourself.
On the one hand, keeping your goals and dreams close can be a good bet. Recently, I heard someone make the case for keeping quiet about them like this:
‘Don’t tell people about your goals and dreams because not everyone can handle them.’
Not everyone can tolerate the dreams that you have, and there could be a million reasons why…
Your dreams could confront or threaten their own.
Your dreams might challenge a status quo that’s just too important to them.
The values driving your goals may be counter to theirs.
The list goes on.
On the other hand, sharing your dreams can help you get the support you need to accomplish them. I have many people in my circle that have helped me reach my own goals and dreams.
Let’s look at the research.
To complicate the question of ‘should I, shouldn’t I?’ there’s research proving that people actually want to help you. Sometimes more than you want to ask for their help.
Xuan Zaho, a research scientist and bias-fighter at Stanford SPARQ, recently shared her findings saying, ‘When imagining, recalling, or actually engaging in live interactions in the field, people in need of help consistently underestimated how willing strangers—and even friends—would be to help them, underestimated how positive helpers would feel after helping, and overestimated how much helpers would feel inconvenienced.’
So yeah. People want tohelp. Which, in the context of determining if we should share our goals or not, suggests we should not only share them, but also ask for help on the way – right?
Except then there are articles like this one, which literally says in the title:
‘Research Reveals That Publicly Announcing Your Goals Makes You Less Likely to Achieve Them.’
Err– So I guess we don’t share them, then?
We can go round and round.
So which is it? Should I speak about my goals and dreams, or keep them a secret?
To share, or not to share?
The answer here is, it depends.
In my book Ask Like An Auctioneer, I talk about how to ask for more and get it. And in the making of that book, I worked with countless high-achieving professionals, deep-diving into how they ask, and what they ask for, on their march toward their goals.
And the answer, I’ve found, is:
It really does depend.
Specifically, it depends on 3 things:
- Who you’re telling your dreams to.
- Why you're telling them.
- And what you expect from your audience when you do.
Let’s break it down so that you can determine when it’s time to speak about your goals versus when it’s time to keep them quiet (at least for now).
The Breakdown (a framework).
If you’re considering telling folks about your goal, dream, or project, think about:
1. Who you’re telling.
Again, not everyone can handle hearing about your goals and dreams, big or small. So, choose wisely.
The question behind the WHO is:
Will the person you want to tell be a champion or supporter of you and/or the thing you’re going after?
For example, if your goal is to free-climb Half Dome, and the person you want to tell loves rock climbing, then they could be a great choice!
But if they’re the stay-at-home type who’s too nervous to stand on a stepladder, then they’re less likely to be enthusiastic about your outdoorsy vertical goal.
I’m not saying you have to exclusively share with folks who are most likely to join your goal-party. But I am suggesting you choose wisely.
Which leads us to number two...
2. Why you’re telling them.
What is your motivation behind wanting to tell someone about your goal?
To get praise or encouragement? Get feedback? Deepen a connection? Get help or create more opportunities to advance your goal?
These are all perfectly good reasons to speak about your goals and dreams. But only if WHO you’re telling (1) and WHY you’re telling someone (2) align (enough).
Which leads us to number three…
3. What you expect.
When you talk with someone or a group of people about your goals and dreams, chances are good that you’ll get some type of response. So ask yourself, ‘What response do I expect?’
Note: this is not the same question as, ‘What response do I want?’
In fact, take a beat to parse out the differences between:
- What you realistically expect from them, knowing what you know about them.
- And what you deep-down want and hope from them and this interaction.
The more honest you can be with yourself about both, the better.
Then, notice if those two things line up (or not) in a way that feels good for you. The main question:
Does the response you think you’ll get from them come close enough to the response you desire?
Allow your answer to give you a better sense of whether this is the right time, and/or a good idea for you to share your goal and dream in this way.
For the record: it is perfectly okay if your expectations and wants don’t line up perfectly here. This isn’t so much about making sure they’re exactly the same.
This piece is meant to help those of us who tend to be a little too optimistic. It can be tempting to expect a supportive and easy-going response from everyone when you’re sharing something that’s so important and exciting to you.
But it’s not realistic, if, for example, the person you’re telling has a history of being a hard-hitting, challenging voice. You can hope for a positive response, sure! But best to be prepared, based on the reality you know to be true.
No amount of wishing is going to change who people are. With that being said, if you expect a hard-hitting response, it’s something you want, and it’s tied to why you’re sharing, then, great!
The truth is gray.
As tempting as it is to create black and white rules that tell us to ‘always do this’ and ‘never do that,’ the truth is almost always more nuanced than that.
That applies to sharing your dreams as much as anything. You get to decide what’s best for you in each particular goal-getting situation.
And in order to make that last statement feel empowering rather than daunting, I funnel it through the framework I mentioned above. I love a good framework to help me make these choices. Maybe you do, too.
If you’ve landed on a goal, tied it to a dream, and you’re unsure if you should talk about it or not, consider using the who, why, what framework we just walked through to find the answer for yourself.
And when you’re really stuck? As long as you don’t have any glaring reasons to NOT share, I encourage you to lean towards letting your dreams be known. Because how can we help you, resource you, support you, think with you, if you keep them all to yourself?
Speaking of frameworks… Remember the research that showed that people want to help you, more than you’re willing to ask for their help? If you have a goal that you already know you want to share, AND that you want to ask for help on, check out the other framework we made for exactly that:
💡 The 5 Questions you need to answer before making a big ask (download for free here).