Sunday, October 6, 2013

Personal Improvement: How Sharing Your Plans with Peers Can Hinder Your Efforts (read: why actions speak louder than words)

Telling others about your personal improvement intentions hinders your follow through.

If you've ever had an idea to improve your life; be it through exercise, dieting, even education, your first thoughts are always so grand. "Tomorrow, no solid foods - I'm going to juice everything!" You are so excited to lose the weight you gained over the winter. You go out and buy an expensive juicer, and a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables so everything is prepared.

Part of preparation of course is mental; you have to tell yourself that you are committed. You have to be excited about the weight loss and how great you will look - after all, you've been wanting to lose that weight for months.

Sidebar: Let us all agree that we are social creatures. And in that light, we share the news of our lives with our friends and family. Agreed? This is a normal routine, but it is necessary to proceed to set this precedent.

Naturally, in your social "news-sharing" routine you tell your friends and family about your new personal improvement venture.

It may not seem like anything, but you've already made a fatal mistake, challenging your ability to follow through with your effort. You told people. But in that act of sharing, you've fired reward centers in your brain. So called "Empathy Neurons" react to your imagining and sharing and your brain reacts in a way as if it had already performed the self-improvement venture.

@ 6:11

As you start your juicing routine and continue sharing your effort with your peers, your brain is still receiving the "reward feelings" all along. This hinders you and, though you don't know, your brain must be confused why you are continuing if you already feel basically as good as you ever will.

In part, you falter because you shared and got the "reward feelings" just by spreading the news and people acknowledging your idea.

I would argue that personal improvement ventures are sometimes more likely to go through for those who don't share their plans. 


Next time you have an idea for personal improvement, just go ahead with it and see what happens, keep it a secret and let the results speak for themselves. If people ask after noticing change then feel free to share. This will encourage a continuance of behavior and allow the "reward feelings" to take place in the natural, logical order to produce better results.

Downside: Altered short term social behavior.

Upside: You follow through in the long term.