I’ve seen a lot of people talking about bucket lists lately, especially after the 2007 movie The Bucket List came out. The idea of a bucket list is that you keep a list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Another similar type of movement is called the “43 Things List.” There’s even a site called 43 Things where you can publicly pronounce your goals.
The idea is that by putting your goals out for the world to see, you’ll feel the inspiration (or pressure) to reach those goals. It certainly seems like it would be a good strategy. However, the theory has a major flaw.
Derek Sivers spoke at TED recently about why making your goals public is not a good idea. Sivers explains that telling people your goals gives you a great feeling. It’s almost as if by talking about your goal, you get a similar feeling to what you would if you’d already achieved it. But it’s this great feeling that makes you less likely to actually achieve the goal. Sivers states, “Telling someone your goals makes them less likely to happen.” Scientists call this phenomenon “Social Reality”—your mind is tricked into thinking a task is already achieved based on the reactions of people around you when you talk about it.
In the movie, The Bucket List, the main character, Carter Chambers (played by Morgan Freeman), may have initially gotten it right, because he appears to have kept his list to himself. It’s only when his Bucket List is accidentally discovered by his hospital roommate, Edward Cole (played by Jack Nicholson), that Chambers begins to achieve his goals. (That might speak to the importance of having a close-knit support group in reaching your goals.)
Other well-known steps for achieving goals are still relevant, such as:
- Small Steps. Life coaches recommend breaking your goals into small, achievable tasks. Martha Beck encourages us to consider a strategy called the 4-Day Win. She describes a 4-Day Win as “a simple method for breaking large, overwhelming goals into comfortable, bite-sized pieces that are accomplished over a four-day period and anchored with rewards to encourage positive behavior.”
- Perseverance. John D. Rockefeller once said, “I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” Perseverance is key to achieving goals.
- Celebrating Success. Annabel Candy writes in her inspirational blog, Get in the Hot Spot, about the importance of celebrating success. She recommends reveling in today’s success because as Scarlett O’Hara reminds us, tomorrow is just another day.
- Have a Vision. One prescription from Steven Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is to begin with the end in mind. Basically, this means to have a vision of what you expect to achieve. One way to do this is to use meditation such as Kathy Freston’s guided meditations to help visualize and achieve goals.
According to Sivers, the one bit of advice that we frequently hear but should be wary of is to share your goals with others. In fact, Sivers suggest that in order to achieve them, we need to keep our goals to ourselves!