I have 387,234,132,138 or thereabouts goals, but I’ve decided not to talk about them before they’re complete. I’m more productive when I discuss things retrospectively.
Think of those who take an IQ test and score in the 99.999995th percentile. They’ve done a fine job on the test, but if that score is the only thing that vouches for their intelligence, maybe they shouldn’t feel so smart. A high IQ test score is sweet because it suggests a high level of intelligence and it’s something people can use to place themselves among the greats, but …
Bob: My IQ is 180. Marie Curie’s IQ is 180! I’m like Marie Curie!
Bobette: Curie developed a technique to isolate radioactive isotopes. She won a Nobel Prize in Physics and a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. What did you do?
Bob: I recognized patterns on a test. The test says I’m just as smart as she is, so I can get those things too if I want. I’m smart. 😛
IQ tests are a little (tiny) bit dangerous. They allow test takers to feel accomplished without actually having them do much of anything. People often use them as indicators of potential (i.e. You did well on this test, so you probably learn quickly. You also probably possess the ability to think critically. You may accomplish great things. If you join my organization, you may do your great things there, so I want you). That’s fine, but getting an absurdly high score on an IQ test is not the same as having done something absurdly intelligent or even being absurdly intelligent. The tests are flawed.
In that way, an IQ test score resembles blabbering about goals/to do lists. The thought is there; the potential’s there, but has anything truly significant been accomplished? No. Yet, people love sharing their goals. The hope is that sharing increases productivity. People can get support; others will hold them accountable, etc.
Sharing doesn’t often work that way for me. Instead, I feel accomplished without actually doing anything, lose focus, and become less likely to do what I set out to do. Oops.
Years ago, I bought a ridiculously difficult Korean history tome, a virtual brick written for scholars. I told friends I was going to read it. They praised me for having the idea. I ended up reading one page of hundreds. Did anyone say, “Wtf? That’s lame. I thought you were going to read the whole thing.” No. Did anyone say anything at all to hold me accountable? No. Instead, I had already been rewarded for coming up with a stupid goal. People had said I was intelligent because I’d told them I intended to read a difficult book. In the end, it didn’t matter that I didn’t actually read it. When it comes to shared goals, intentions and accomplishments often get the same reaction. I haven’t found praise for doing nothing (or having stupid goals) particularly helpful.
Besides, when I ban myself from mentioning things, I want to accomplish them more as I love discussing what I adore. I didn’t post about reading Korean literature in Korean until I actually read something. I can’t say for sure whether that did anything, but it definitely feels as though it did. If I were to have posted about it before I’d finished a book, I would have felt a sense of accomplishment and while I don’t think that would have stopped me from reading—it probably would have slowed me down—taken the edge off my hunger to engage in Korean literature because talking about it somehow feels like engaging with it. Reading literature was something I really wanted to do and discuss, so the goal I actually made was focused and extraordinarily realistic. I didn’t go for the thickest, heaviest, most intimidating, and most impressive looking tome around. I went for what I thought I’d actually read.
Bottom Line: I don’t want credit for potential. I want credit for accomplishing things. Sharing goals I haven’t begun working on doesn’t increase my productivity; I’m going to abstain from sharing them. This isn’t to say that I will always abstain. I just want to be careful about it.
Is telling people about this going to help me accomplish it? If my answer isn’t a resounding, “Yes!” I should and will continue to keep my mouth shut and my fingers away from keyboards.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject. I’m interested in hearing them. Everyone isn’t motivated in the same way and it’s cool to see how different people think.
*Photo: My productivity tools in a cafe. iPhone 5; Wood Camera app.