3 Telling Your Goals to Your Friends Makes You Give Up Faster
So what you really need to avoid the above pitfall is someone else to hold your feet to the fire. That's why one of the most common ways to motivate ourselves to accomplish something is simply sharing our goals with other people -- if your friends know that your New Year's resolution was to finally write that Sonic/Shrek erotic novel, for example, then you're more likely to get off your ass and do it, right? Otherwise they'll keep asking you how the novel is going and you'll be forced to admit you gave up the dream.
Hemingway probably went through the same thing when he was writing his fan fiction novels.
But once again, that's not the way the human brain works. Science has shown that sharing goals with your friends (or anyone at all) can actually make you less motivated to get shit done.
In a series of studies, researchers asked college students about what they wanted to do with their lives and told them to estimate how productive they thought they'd be the next week. The answers were filled in anonymous forms, but when the forms were being collected, half the students could clearly see that the researchers were checking out their answers, supposedly to confirm that they filled them correctly.
"In 'What do you want to do with your life?' you drew a man punching a dinosaur."
The other students had their results ignored. This was to ensure that the first half knew that someone else was aware of their aspirations and goals and also to stress to the second half that no one gives a shit about them.
Afterward, the researchers kept track of all the participants and found out that when they'd told people about their goals, the students were less likely to work toward them. You'd think that those whose aspirations had been recognized would actually work harder to avoid looking like lazy slobs, but the opposite happened: Just sharing their intentions with another person had made them more lazy.
"Screw this city council crap. Let's give that whole 'anarchy' thing a try."
Much like the "fantasizing drains your energy" thing, this comes down to the funny way our brains work and also the fact that we're all huge egomaniacs. By announcing our intentions to the rest of the world, we get a taste of the same recognition we'd get if we actually accomplished those goals. Unfortunately, for most people that small taste is enough and they'll be less motivated to follow through with their work.
But isn't getting feedback along the way important? Well ...
2 Getting Constant Feedback Leads to Poor Decisions
Love it or hate it, feedback is a crucial part of any workplace. And if you're a Gen-Yer, then chances are you love it -- it's been reported that most young workers today crave constant feedback from their bosses or downright demand it. And that makes sense: It's always better to have someone guiding you through your work, especially when it involves making tough decisions, right?
Well, no. In fact, in certain situations getting feedback can make you suck at your job. Doesn't matter if it's positive or negative -- just the act of having someone telling you how you're doing drains your attention and reduces your effectivity.
"I refuse to let all your 'flatline' negativity slow me down!"
More specifically, the harder the assignment, the less good active feedback will do. For instance, in one study, researchers asked participants to perform a difficult task; they had to figure out how to control a baby's health, which is a lot of pressure because those things are notoriously easy to break. While they were doing this, one researcher came into the room and gave them some sort of feedback. Whether the feedback was good or bad, it didn't matter, because those who received it performed worse off in the task than those who didn't get any assistance at all. The participants who were "helped" by experts ended up making worse decisions, and that's why it's probably a good thing that they didn't use real babies in this thing.
Instead of helping them, the feedback took them out of their heads and made them more confused than not. Why did this happen? Because when the task itself is difficult, there's a lot of information your brain has to keep track of, and if on top of that you also have to make sense of what your supervisor is telling you, then the information overload will distract you from making good decisions. Suddenly you won't be so sure if eating that burrito that's been on the office fridge since 1997 is a good idea or not.
"It's true my ex has a 500-foot restraining order on me ... buuuuuut maybe giving it one more shot will do the trick."
Note that the study only covered situations where the feedback was given while the task was being performed; if it comes before (based on previous work) or afterward, then the same might not be true. So when your boss cornered you in the bathroom to talk about those expense reports, he was actually doing you a favor.