I’ve come to realize over the past few years that public accountability is a powerful thing for me. When I have a goal in mind and I announce it on my blog or tell a bunch of friends, I find I’m far more likely to actually achieve that goal than if I had just kept it to myself.
But then along comes Derek Sivers with a great TED Talk, citing a bunch of research which proves that “telling someone your goals makes them less likely to happen.”
Here’s the talk, just three minutes in length…
I can’t knock what Derek is saying. I’ll give that research the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s all true, that most people are indeed better off keeping their goals to themselves.
But here’s the thing: I’m not most people. I’m not the average or the mean or the majority. I’ve tested for me, as an individual with my own unique set of ever-changing beliefs, values, motivations and circumstances. And as that person, announcing my goals to the world has proven to be a pretty good idea.
But that’s just me. You have to test for you. What works for one person or even a group of people at one time and in one place may not work for you here and now. Or maybe it will. But you can’t ever know for sure until you test for yourself.
A few other examples to illustrate this point:
- Back in January there was a great debate on Think Traffic about whether it’s a good idea to allow comments on your blog. Pat Flynn argued absolutely, while Ev Bogue argued definitely not. I have a hard time believing either guy is wrong. Their opposing approaches each work great for them.
- David Damron recently debated Leo Babauta about the importance of goals. David is a big believer in setting goals, whereas Leo has found that his life works great without them. I think they’re both right: David’s way works for David, and Leo’s way works for Leo.
- Steve Pavlina gets up early. Tim Ferriss gets up late. Which is the better approach? Depends on the person. Some folks are at their best while the sun rises, others not so much.
How to test for you
The only way to find out what works for you is via trial and error. No getting around it. You have to jump in, get your hands dirty, throw a whole bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks. Keep what works and discard the rest.
You can’t stand there waiting to take action until a sure thing comes along, because there is no sure thing. There’s just what works for some people, and there’s what works for you. The former you can spend all day reading about on the Internet. The latter you can only discover through experimentation.
Question: What works for you that doesn’t work for most people?
UPDATE: Just came across this excellent TED Talk from Tim Harford, where he talks about the value of trial and error, and the curse of what he calls the God Complex.