Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles About a week ago, an acquaintance of mine named Tom Scott put out a video called "Why You Should Write Down Your Goals," and in that video he recounted a failed marketing stunt/experiment put on by the British television network ITV where they asked people to publicly commit to goals and those goals were then etched on to monuments, and these monuments were placed all around the UK in lots of historic places, and they were really excited about punctuating the new millennium with this project, but after just a couple of years, the television network actually scrapped it because well, nobody cared about it, and it didn't make any money. The point of Tom's video though is that the financial failure of this monument project didn't stop it from doing some good because as recent research has pointed out, the simple act of writing down your goals really does help you become more likely to achieve them, so ITV's project, despite its failure, most likely did benefit the people who committed to those goals or did it? See, these people didn't just write down their goals privately, they publicly stated them, and had someone etch them onto a monument for all to see. and therein lies the problem, they told someone or rather several thousand someones on national television what their goals were, and it turns out that telling people about your goals actually does you more harm than good. Now maybe this is confusing to you, after all, accountability and stuff, right? Won't telling my friend about my goal to run a marathon make me accountable to them? Well, in one word, nope. Unfortunately, that's usually not how it works. Here's the thing, most of your friends won't care enough to actually keep you accountable. They'll pat you on the back. They'll give you some congratulations on your goal, but most of them are too busy dealing with their own lives to break into your house at four am with a boombox playing "Eye of the Tiger." Unless you're me. More importantly, announcing your goal widens your intention-behavior gap which is the disconnect between knowing you should do something and actually doing it. Now psychologists have been studying the intention-behavior gap since the 1920s, and what they've learned is basically, we humans, we like to dream a lot. We've got tons and tons of dreams, aspirations, goals and fantasies, and we're usually smart enough to know what the first step is in order to achieving that goal. Unfortunately, we often have trouble actually taking that first step, to say nothing of continuing on to the next ones. Being aware of this fact, in 2009 a group of researchers at NYU decided to study how the intention-behavior gap was affected by people telling others about their goals, and across four different experiments they had people first state a goal, and then they gave them 45 minutes to work on it. For each of these experiments, the people were divided into two different groups. The first group announced their goal to the room before starting work while the second group kept their mouth shut, and here's what happened. The group that said nothing tended to work for the entire 45 minutes on average, and when asked about their progress, they were pretty realistic. They tended to say that they still had a lot more work to do before they'd be done. By contrast, the people who announced their goals quit after only 33 minutes of work on average, and when they were asked about their progress, they were a lot more confident, and tended to say they were pretty close to completion, even though they weren't. These latter groups made so much less real progress because announcing their goal gave them a fake sense of accomplishment. See, when you announce your goal to somebody, and they affirm it, you feel good. You almost feel like you've actually taken a step towards achieving that goal, and that gives you some small sense of satisfaction. This is called a social reality. The affirmation of your goal by somebody whose respect you desire actually makes you feel like you are closer to achieving it, even though in reality, you haven't done anything. Now I first heard about this study in a TED talk given by the entrepreneur Derek Sivers, who I have massive amounts of respect for, and after presenting the research findings in the talk, here was his advice: You should, "Resist the temptation to announce your goal, delay the gratification that the social acknowledgement brings, and understand that your mind mistakes the talking for the doing." Now as a general principle, I totally agree with this, and I think that we should heed it for the most part. I don't think that it disproves the usefulness of accountability partners, but I do think that it highlights the importance that if you're gonna get one and tell them your goal, you should make sure it's somebody who will actually keep you accountable. Also, it helps to frame your goal in terms of the work you need to put in rather than the identity that you want to assume, so instead of saying I'm going to run a marathon, which paints you as a cool, tough marathonrunner, just say I'm going to run an hour a day. That's the work you have to put in, and it's much easier for them to keep you accountable for it. That being said, the main conclusion of Tom's video is still completely valid. I definitely think that you should write down your goals, and now that you've finished watching this video, go give that one a watch. It's a good one. You can also check out Derek's original TED talk which I've embedded in the blog post for this video. If you want to read that, you can click the orange button right there. If you want to get new tips on being a more effective student every single week, you can click that big, red subscribe button down below and I wrote an entire book on how to earn better grades, so if you want a free copy sent to your email, click the picture of the book. Last week's video was all about how I use my calendar, so check it out if you missed it, and if you'd like to connect, I'm on Instagram and Twitter @TomFrankly or you can leave a comment down below. Thanks for watching.