Maybe Lil Wayne was wrong: it turns out real Gs don’t always move in silence. Publicly sharing your goals may help an individual work through failure — provided you care what people think, according to new research from Binghampton University, State University of New York.
“Everyone sets goals, and some people choose to make those goals public instead of keeping them private,” Jenny Jiao, an assistant professor of marketing at Binghamton University’s School of Management, says in a statement.
But before you post your #goals on social media, keep this in mind: Researchers found public announcements only motivate when there is instant feedback.
“If someone gives you immediate feedback, you then start thinking about what you could’ve done better,” says Jiao. “If that feedback is delayed, then you’ve probably found ways to justify your failure, and you’re less likely to pick your goal back up.”
Jaio worked with Catherine Cole, a professor of marketing at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business, to analyze the effects of goal publicity, failure feedback, incentives, and persistence from three different studies, all of which consisted of participants who completed a task, failed it, and were given another opportunity to complete it.
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“When you hit a failure, virtually all of the effort you’ve put into your goal is now a sunk cost,” Jaio says.
“You can’t go back and try to fix what you’ve already done. You now only have two options – give up or keep trying.”
Do you care?
People who value their reputation are more motivated to push past failure after a public announcement, researchers found. People who don’t care about their public image aren’t motivated to work through failure.
“You may reassess a goal after failing and realize that it may not be worth the effort,” says Jiao.
“However, if there is a reward that you perceive as being very valuable, it’s going to keep pushing you towards reaching that goal.”
Grit = Success
The findings echo that of previous research suggesting success isn’t a product of luck or unprecedented skill — but rather, an ability to persevere.
A September study that attempted to quantify the qualities that lead to expert-dom identified grit and passion as two of the determining factors.
“A key concept in this context is to find an area that you’re interested in. That’s how we can light the spark,” lead author Hermundur Sigmundsson at NTNU’s Department of Psychology, said in a statement.
“You need a passion for what you’re doing. You have to burn for it. In addition, you need a positive mindset, an attitude of ‘I can achieve this.’”
And when things get tough, you’re more likely to succeed if you stick with it.
“Passion sets the direction of your arrow, but grit determines the strength and size of the arrow.”
An October study published in Nature Communications by scientists at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found that scientists who experience failure early in their careers are more likely to enjoy future success.
The authors hypothesized long-term success may be due to “weeding out,” meaning that early-career failure may have prompted some people to pursue other careers, leaving behind only the most determined.
“There is value in failure,” Dashun Wang, a corresponding author and associate professor of management and organizations at Kellogg, said in a statement.
“We have just begun expanding this research into a broader domain and are seeing promising signals of similar effects in other fields.”
Header image courtesy: Unsplash/Can We All Go.