Friday, August 12, 2011

Have You Ever Lied About Your Goal Progress?

Hello faithful readers and welcome to another edition of the Life List Club. Since I'm super special and lucky I get to have Carrie with me again today! SQUEEE!! Her post is rockin' and I'm sure all of you will love it!

But first I must tell you all to hop over to my post on Lyn Midnight Against the Odds. It's pretty much the complete opposite of what Carrie's talking about so it will be nice for you guys to have two fun things to read.

Here's Carrie -

I was at a barbecue the other night when an acquaintance asked, "How's your novel coming?" I stared back blankly, sipped my drink and hoped they'd just go away. Finally I managed a, "It's OK." That was a big, fat lie. If I was telling the truth, what I really would have said was, "Terrible. I don't have a clue where my story is going next, and writing in the past scares the heck out of me." But I didn't. Instead I chose to lie.

Now on the scale of lies, mine might be considered a white lie. Rather than divulging the inner secrets of my writerly life, I let this person off easy by giving them an easy answer. Does anyone really want to hear about the hours I've spent banging my head against my keyboard over a single scene? Not likely. But, I still left the barbecue that night feeling awfully guilty about what I had said, and more importantly, wondering why I had told anyone I was writing a novel in the first place.

Telling People About Your Goals:

When I joined the Life List Club and set out on a year-long journey to complete some of my biggest life goals, I was so excited that I told everyone I knew (and even a few people I didn’t). I told my family, my friends and my co-workers that I was making a commitment to complete a list of fifteen goals, one of which was writing a novel. It felt great to talk about it, and I thought that telling people about my goals would be motivating and keep me accountable. Well, science says this isn't true. Check out this short video from Derek Sivers on why announcing your plans can make you less likely to accomplish them:

Now, at the risk of going against Derek and science, I think that telling people about your goals can be motivating, especially when you're writing a novel or working towards another giant-sized goal. The Life List Club was created for this exact reason: it’s a way to share your goals and keep yourself accountable. But, perhaps Derek does have a point when it comes to shouting your goals from the tree tops like I did. Maybe you shouldn't tell everyone and their dog about your goal, unless you're prepared to tell the truth about your progress.

Telling the Truth About Your Progress:

If you're going to tell people about your goals, I think you also need to be prepared to tell them the truth about your progress. Did you have a bad week and not hit your target number of words or pages? Tell the truth. Did you break down and eat a jumbo sized bag of chocolate almonds on Friday night? Fess up. Did you skip the gym three days in a row? Admit it. When you lie about your goal progress, you only hurt yourself. Thinking back to the person who asked me about how my novel was going at the barbeque, I now realize that I would have been better off telling the truth. By lying and saying that the novel was going well, I took the social pressure of admitting that things weren’t going well off of myself, thereby negating any benefit I would have gained from telling this person about my goal in the first place. Not to mention that I felt terrible for lying. If you’re going to tell people about your goals in an attempt to keep yourself accountable, I believe you have to be prepared to let them know when you’re not making the progress you hoped you would.

Do you agree? Should we be careful about whom we share our goals with? Do you tell people about your big goals? Have you ever lied about your progress?


Carrie Mumford is a writer and editor living in the wild Canadian West. She writes short stories and non-fiction articles, and is working on her first novel. When she’s not participating in word-related activities she can be found chipping away at her certificate in publishing, running, or trying to learn CSS. You can find her on her blog, her website, Twitter or Google Plus.


Christa said...

I always worry about all the questions when I do tell people my goals. (I mean how long are my parents going to keep asking if I'm published yet every time they see me?)
I like this post. Nicely done, Carrie and Jen.

Carrie Mumford said...

Thanks Christa!

Telling someone your goals is a double-edged sword, isn't it! Since I have a big mouth and told everyone my goal, I'm trying to use questions like your parents' as motivation to write. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't :) Good luck with your writing!

cherie said...

Great post!

I'm really not an outspoken person in real life so I don't broadcast my goals. My family knows I write, but they don't know what progress I'm making. :)

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Cherie

Do you find it easier to manage your goals that way? Or do you have trouble motivating yourself without the extrinsic pressure?

Thanks for your comment!

Jenny S. Morris said...

This was huge for me. Actually telling people that I write, and want to become published. There are still a lot of people (mostly at work) that don't know. But, having the support of my family and friends is great.

wosushi said...

I've found that sharing my smaller goals with like minded individuals has been great - we cheer each other on.

But I'm not big on sharing "ultimate" goals with everyone. Those I prefer to keep close to the chest and share with a select few.

Mark Noce said...

Well, wouldn't say I ever lie, but sometimes I keep answers brief because otherwise it involves going into too much that can be sorted in a quick conversation:)

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Jenny It's tough to know how to balance a day job and a writing career. I've only told a few close friends at work about my writing, although sometimes I wonder if I should be telling more people as it's good to get the word out there. (Perhaps not tell them all about my goals though ;)

Carrie Mumford said...


You raise a really good point! Perhaps the size of the goal should dictate who we share with. Great though, wosushi!

Pam said...

I've been guilty of these white lies too. Lately, I've been more honest. Sometimes I go to the other extreme and my admission of not writing more than a page or two all week turns into a rant about how busy things are that the person who asked probably never wanted to hear : ). I guess there's a happy medium in there somewhere. I have had a white lie about how far along I am spur me on to actually get there before, too.

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Mark Noce

I think that's going to be my new tactic, Mark!

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Pam

I have done the same (re. the rant)! Some poor unsuspecting soul asks how my week was and I go off on a rampage about a short story that's driving me insane, or a character who just won't do what I want them too. We writers are creatures of extremes, it seems :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Okay, this is going to seem really lame. I totally tell certain people about some goals, but most of the time I don't. Why? Because I don't like being told what to do. When other people start trying to hold me to my goals (even if it only FEELS like they are holding me to them, but they aren't actually), it starts feeling like they are telling me what to do. And then I feel like I have to fight against that. See? Stupid. It is what it is, though. I only tell people goals when I want to do it SO STRONGLY that what they want me to do doesn't matter.

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Peggy

That doesn't sound stupid at all! I have an aversion to people telling me what to do too, so I can understand that feeling. It must feel twice as good when you get to tell people about your goals once you've completed them!

Sarah Pearson said...

You raise a great point. It's best to share your goals only with those people you're prepared to share your progress, or lack of it!

belledamesansmerci said...

Carrie, great questions. I find that sharing my small, writerly goals with a group like ROW80 is working well--I can be honest, and they understand.

Big goals--nope. Outside ROW80, maybe five people know that I want to write non-academic stuff. They love me anyway, so I don't have to lie to them! The rest of the world will find out I write after my pen name gets associated with my real name--I'd say about ten novels from now!


jesswords10 said...

You know what you reminded me of? That scene in Sex and the City 2 where Miranda and Charlotte find courage in admitting their parenting frustrations and difficulties by sipping martinis for courage. I feel like the Life List Club now needs to host a Sip and Divulge party. LOL

It's so true though, Carrie. I know I've sugared the truth now and then to feel better about where I'm at, hence my meltdown...BUT I don't agree with your guy Derek. I think having an accountable check in and support group like LLC is going to be great with getting goals accomplished. I know the group was my main reason to say no to the idea of postponing the writing thing another year. It's a present and active reminder to myself that this something worth working for. I hope you feel that way too.

Thank you for sharing your honest words. I feel you, and you're not alone. Best of luck and all my support on your writing projects. You know where to find me if I can help in any way!

Sonia G Medeiros said...

I think it depends on the goal. I was terrified to publicly commit to being a writer and eventually a published author. I didn't get that glowy, good feeling that made me feel closer to my goal. Okay, I did feel good about saying it. Claiming myself as a writer. But, I also knew I was now on the hook for it. If I flake out, everybody's gonna know. That's scary. I think maybe I still agree with him because he talks about stating goals in away that doesn't give us the instant gratification. We talk about the work needed to acheive the goals. ROW80 and Life List Club keep us accountable because we have to check in periodically. Maybe that's why those public statements work. It's not just "I'm writing a book!" but "I need to write X number of words this week."

As for lying about progress...I've been tempted. On really crappy weeks. Yeah, I've been tempted. But that would just screw me up more. So, I've sucked it up and fessed to the mess up. 'Cause we all mess up.

It is harder to fess up to non writers though. They don't always understand what it's like to write a novel.

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Sarah Pearson

You hit the nail on the head Sarah! The real lesson I learned here is that I should be sharing my goals (or at least big writing goals) with close family and friends and like-minded writers. Just as you said, if you're not prepared to be telling the truth about your progress, you probably shouldn't be telling someone about that goal in the first place.

Carrie Mumford said...

@ belledamesansmerci

Great point re. the size and nature of the goal. Like several other commenters have mentioned here, I feel more comfortable sharing writing goals with other writers, because they can understand when I say, "The novel is going terribly, I want to bang my head repeatedly on my keyboard." My poor, unsuspecting acquaintance at the barbecue might have found this quite disturbing ;)

Carrie Mumford said...

@ jesswords10

Thanks so much for such a supportive comment, Jess! I don't entirely agree with Derek either. The Life List Club (and other writing groups that I've participated in) have done HUGE things for my writing progress. I most certainly would have fallen off the writing train long ago without the support of others in the writing community. Plus it's so fun (and rewarding) to support others on their journeys.

I like to think that Derek's research was referring those of us who shout our goals to anyone and everyone who will listen (I keep picturing the scene from Titanic with Jack and Rose at the front of the ship, "I'm the king of the world!" - that kind of shouting :). I've been guilty of that in my excitement before for sure, but now I know better not to broadcast those big goals that I'm not going to want to talk about when things aren't going as planned.

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Sonia G Medeiros

So true Sonia - it is much easier to fess up to someone who can better understand what you're going through. To say "It's ok," when it really wasn't ok, made me feel SUPER guilty. With close friends and family and writing friends, I wouldn't spare them my whining; I'd give them an earful about just how bad it was going :)

Jenny Hansen said...


What a great post! I think it boils down to WHY you're stating the goal.

If it is to help you (stay on track, achieve, try) then it is a great thing and you should be honest in all ways. If you're stating a goal for the approval, feedback, acclaim (I know YOU'RE not, but some are...) then lie away. Seriously. That goal isn't for you, so neither is the answer. It's all for them.

I'm going to be interested to hear what you guys have to say to this, but that's how I feel. It's embarrassing when we don't make goals, but they are for us and we own them - good, bad or indifferent.

Did I gush enough about that fact that this is A REALLY GREAT POST??? :-)

Carrie Mumford said...

@ Jenny Hansen

Thanks so much for hosting me two times in a row, Jennie! I've had a blast chatting with your readers.

Nelson said...

Hello my friend Jen! Always nice to come back to read your beautiful article. Very understandable , simple and elegant. I wish a excellent weekend for you, with very smiles and peace! Visit me too. Greetings from Rio de Janeiro/Brasil.

Lipgloss Mumma said...

Great article! I wouldn't say I lie, but more just leave out the finer details. I like to keep my writing progress a little secretive :)

*^_^* said...

Thanks for sharing, J! You make ny day!