Increasing accountability can be a wonderful tool. I have many friends who take exercise classes or work with a trainer on a regular schedule to keep themselves exercising. Music lessons work in the same way; after we have paid the money and form a working relationship with our instructor/trainer, we have greater incentive to “get our money’s worth” and work harder for our instructor’s praise. Other people make their business goals public and are thus able to gain valuable PR, build tribes (aka fan bases), and raise capital. Sharing goals can also be a great way to bond with a community.
However, I question whether external validation, pressure, and support are enough. Perhaps they’ll give us a boost when we need one and help get us through the hard times. But we shouldn’t forget the importance of internal commitment. How highly do we value our goals, and do we value ourselves highly enough to see them through? What do we actually care about? How can we best support ourselves? And at what point do we need to reevaluate our goals and adjust as necessary?
I don’t think the answer is to eschew public goal-making altogether. Rather, I think it’s important to pay attention and make sure that stating our aims publicly is having the desired effect. If we realize that telling other people what we mean to do is making us feel like we’ve accomplished more than we have, we can compensate for that fact by giving ourselves “extra” to do. If we realize that we often share plans that we don’t follow through on, then we can stop sharing and see if there’s a noticeable difference. If we have systems in place that work well at increasing our accountability, then we can keep on doing what works.
We are not cookie-cutter creatives; we are not one-size-fits-all human beings. As a result, so much advice and so many rules turn out to be over-simplifications. When thinking advice over and deciding on a best course of action, here’s what I try to remember: do what works.