Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Amateur Hour.
About Derek Sivers' TED Talk
After setting a new personal goal, often your first instinct is to tell someone. But entrepreneur Derek Sivers says you're better off keeping it to yourself.
About Derek Sivers
Entrepreneur and musician Derek Sivers is best known as the founder of CD Baby. He started CD Baby by accident in 1998 when he was selling his own CDs online, and friends asked if he could sell theirs too. CD Baby became the largest seller of independent music on the web, with over $100 million in sales for over 150,000 musician clients.
In 2008, Sivers sold CD Baby to focus on his new company, MuckWork, where teams of efficient assistants help musicians do their "uncreative dirty work." He's also the author of Anything You Want: 40 Lessons For A New Kind Of Entrepreneur.
GUY RAZ, HOST:
It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Guy Raz. On the show today, ideas about amateurs and how they managed to succeed. Now, think of something you've never tried, but, you know, you've always wanted to, like maybe learning how to play an instrument or trying to write a novel or starting a business. Whatever it is, you are probably a complete amateur at this thing, right? OK, if you want to actually accomplish it, here's a short talk from entrepreneur Derek Sivers with a secret for how to pull it off.
(SOUNDBITE OF TED TALK)
DEREK SIVERS: Imagine deciding right now that you're going to do it, OK? Imagine telling someone that you meet today what you're going to do, your biggest personal goal, OK? For real, imagine their congratulations and their high image of you. Doesn't it feel good to say it out loud? Don't you feel one step closer already, like it's already becoming part of your identity? Well, bad news, you should've kept your mouth shut 'cause that good feeling now will make you less likely to do it.
Repeated psychology tests have proven that telling someone your goal makes it less likely to happen. Any time you have a goal, there are some steps that need to be done, some work that needs to be done, in order to achieve it. Ideally, you would not be satisfied until you'd actually done the work. But when you tell someone your goal and they acknowledge it, psychologists have found that it's called a social reality. The mind is kind of tricked into feeling that it's already done. So this goes against the conventional wisdom that we should tell our friends our goals, right, so they hold it to - hold us to it. Yeah.
So let's look at the proof. 1926, Kurt Lewin, founder of social psychology, called this substitution. 1933, Vera Mahler found when it was acknowledged by others, it felt real in the mind. 1982, Peter Gollwitzer wrote a whole book about this, and in 2009, he did some new tests that were published. It goes like this - 163 people across four separate tests. Everyone wrote down their personal goal then half of them announced their commitment to this goal to the room and half didn't. And then everyone was given 45 minutes of work that would directly lead them towards their goal, but they were told that they could stop at any time. Now, those who kept their mouth shut worked entire 45 minutes on average, and when asked afterwards, said that they felt that they had a long way to go still to achieve their goal. But those who had announced it quit after only 33 minutes on average, and when asked afterwards, said that they felt much closer to achieving their goal.
So if this is true, what can we do? Well, you could resist the temptation to announce your goal. You can delay the gratification that the social acknowledgment brings and you can understand that your mind mistakes the talking for the doing. But if you do need to talk about something, you could state it in way that gives you no satisfaction, such as I really want to run this marathon, so I need to train five times a week and kick my [expletive] if I don't, OK? So, audience, next time you're tempted to tell someone your goal, what will you say? Exactly, well done.
RAZ: Entrepreneur Derek Sivers - you can see more of his talks at TED.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.