At any given time, many of us are likely working toward some goal. Maybe it’s finally organizing your wardrobe or running your first 5K—but no matter the goal, there’s a chance you may encounter some pitfalls. How do we stay on track, and keep going, in the face of failure?
According to new research from Binghamton University, we get by with a little help from our friends. Namely, sharing a goal publicly may encourage us to keep at it, lest we let our audience down.
The effect of sharing your goals.
To conduct the study, researchers wanted to look at the effect that expressing your goals publicly has on reaching them.
In the study, participants had a task to do, which they were told they failed. They were then given another chance to complete the same task with controls to test the effects publicly.
In the end, publicly announcing your goals proved to be an effective motivator—but only if you care what people think. Jenny Jiao, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing says, “If your public reputation is something you hold in high regard, then failing publicly is probably going to push you to not want to fail publicly again. There is a greater chance you’re going to try hitting that goal again.”
On the other hand, “If you don’t care as much about your reputation, then it’s not going to matter if people know about your failure or not,” she adds.Article continues below
And if you don’t care what people think?
Additionally, the study points out that in the face of failure, high incentives and feedback can also serve as strong motivators to continue reaching toward a goal (especially if you’re someone who genuinely doesn’t care what people think of you).
Jiao explains, “You may reassess a goal after failing and realize it may not be worth the effort. However, if there is a reward that you perceive as being very valuable, it’s going to keep pushing you toward reaching that goal.”
Similarly, “If someone gives you immediate feedback, you then start thinking about what you could’ve done better,” she adds. But if feedback is delayed, “you’ve probably found ways to justify your failure.”
So, whether you care what people think of you or not, there’s always a way to stay motivated when confronting a failure. For some, it may be a Facebook status to help keep you subconsciously accountable. For others, maybe it’s a reward for when you finally reach that goal. Whatever it is, find a method that works for you, and keep at it!