Keeping Secret Goals

By Katie, 2:07 pm

Thank you so much for your wonderful congratulatory comments regarding my first half marathon! You all sure know how to make a blogger feel loved and supported. :-D

While I’m still riding high from yesterday’s race, I do feel the need to come clean to both myself and all of you regarding a little issue I have with keeping secret goals. This is not something I’m proud of; in fact, I actually feel a little embarrassed sharing this! :oops: And yet I feel like I should, on the off chance that someone else out there is struggling with the same issue.

You might recall that I wrote a letter to myself before the half marathon, reminding myself that my only goal was to finish the race. I wasn’t being dishonest when I said that, because on the surface I was convinced that was true. But deep down – far beneath any level of rational thought – was another goal: to break 2 hours.

I did not tell a single soul that I was harboring this ambition. In fact, I placed it in a hole so deep that even I didn’t realize it was there right away.

I don’t think there is inherently anything wrong with setting a goal and keeping it to yourself. The reason I see it as problematic for myself is because I know the reasoning and motivation behind it. I didn’t share that goal with anyone because then, if I didn’t reach it, no one would know. Yes, I am still that afraid of looking like a failure. I am still that concerned about others’ opinions of me. I am still that worried that if I don’t hit the bulls eye, the world will come crashing down.


Logically I know this is ridiculous. :roll: I mean, would Dave have scowled at me if I crossed the finish line long after my projected time? Would my mom have been upset with me because I couldn’t keep the pace I wanted to? Of course not! It is utterly absurd to even imagine such a thing!

I place the pressure entirely on myself, and yet on a subconscious level I seem to believe that others have placed the pressure on me. :-?

This isn’t the first time I’ve set a secret goal, which is how I know that it’s a problem.

When I was in high school, I lied to my then boyfriend the day I went to take my test for my driver’s license. I had to miss school to take it, and instead of telling him the truth, I told him I had a dentist appointment. That way, on the off chance that I failed the test, he would have no idea. (Zach, if you’re reading this, forgive me for being so darn silly back then!) Now I am not the lying kind of person, so I must have been truly afraid of looking like a failure (which is of course no excuse!). I am so embarrassed to admit that, but it’s true. :oops:

I suppose what I’m trying to articulate is this: the goals aren’t the problem. Even keeping the goals private isn’t the problem. The problem is that I keep my ambitions a secret because the idea of telling someone that I did not reach said ambitions is so painful and uncomfortable for me.

Truth be told, if I hadn’t reached my secret goal of breaking 2 hours, I don’t even know if I’d be willing to write this post. It’s that bad! Again, more shame. :oops:

But I am going to work on this. I am going to try to remind myself that people are not judging me nearly as much as I think they are – and even if they were, that isn’t my concern. I’m going to try to convince myself that it’s ok to set a goal and not reach it, that’s just a part of life. When it happens, it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to love me any less.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest! :-) Thank you again for all of your wonderful support!

Have you ever kept a secret goal? Can you relate to my situation at all?


Any suggestions for how I can let go of this fear of sharing my “failures” with others?

29 Responses to “Keeping Secret Goals”

  1. Kim says:

    I do the secret goals thing, too, with times for races. :)

    Way to go on your half-marathon! Seriously, so awesome!

  2. Candice says:

    I almost always keep my goals to myself! I do it mostly for the same reason as you- so that I’m not embarassed if I don’t make them. I will usually announce my goal later, and my failure to meet it if that was the case, after the fact and after I’ve come to grips with it myself.

  3. Victoria says:

    “Failure is the mother of all success” It’s was a furtune out of a fortune cookie a few months back right after I quit my job. I felt like the biggest failure ever. And then I opened up my little cookie and **light bulb**. I will never get anywhere in life if I don’t set goals and fail at succeeding them every once in awhile.
    Congrats on the run too–that’s totally awesome!

    • Katie says:

      Wow – who would have thought a fortune cookie could provide such great insight!?! I love the idea that failure is an essential part of succeeding; once you accept that, you’re on your way to achieving great things. I love it! Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Joey says:

    I can completely relate. Sometimes I do that or I will not share because the goal is a challenge for me, but I think others will see it as a “weak” goal… I see where you’re coming from! While we are silly for thinking that way, I don’t think it is something to be ashamed of, just something to work on… We are strong women & we should not let us talk ourselves into thinking we are inferior for any reason!

  5. i totally can…i wouldn’t say that i don’t want people to think i’m a failure, but more than anything people will sometimes almost over-encourage me out of something. so for example if i said that I want/feel like i need to lose 40 lbs, people would freak out and tell me that i look great blah blah blah…

    BUT the thing is I know that 40 lbs less than what I am right now is a healthy and totally manageable weight for me. if i told people that but they encourage me into thinking that everything is great right now, then i wouldn’t take the steps that i need to in order to get healthy.

    anyway, i don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s definitely something that i’ve kept off the blog :)

    • Katie says:

      I never really thought of it that way – that we can have a perfectly reasonable goal that we keep secret because we know others will try to talk us out of it. In that sense, it does seem like keeping a goal private would be for the best!

  6. I’ve done the secret goal thing and I think many people have. It’s nice to have a goal you know you can meet and share that with people. That way you have no room to fail. Then you can have another goal that’s a “great if I meet it” thing where even if you don’t you aren’t failing in front of people. I’m not sure about how to let go of that, but I definitely understand it!

  7. Arielle says:

    I do the same thing! Kind of. I set some mini weight loss goals and once I didn’t reach the first one, I pushed it back. Once I didn’t reach it AGAIN, I just made it a general month ’cause I get so discouraged if I don’t make it. I feel like a failure, regardless of what people tell me. I think that might be worse… even if people disagree and say, “No, you’re doing great!” I can’t accept it, so I just deny it. :\

    • Katie says:

      I totally know what you mean. It’s so hard when those around us say we’re doing great, but we just don’t see it or feel it for ourselves!

  8. Nicole, RD says:

    I did the same thing for my 1/2, but my goal was yours + 30 minutes. I have no advice because I do the same. Silly us!! I don’t think I make a habit out of this because I really don’t set too many lofty goals, but when I do…I don’t like the idea of falling short.

  9. Katie, I’m just catching up on your previous posts, so first let me congratulate you on finishing the half marathon! Crossing the finish line must have been SUCH a great feeling!

    I completely commiserate with the “secret goal problem.” I do the same because I fear that if I share my goal and fail, I will not only be letting myself down, but others too. However, you are so right–it is silly! Nobody will think any different of us if we come up short!

    That said, I don’t think it’s always necessary to share goals. If the goal-setter feels that involving others in their “goal journey” will be helpful,then sharing is the way to go. For example, when someone sets a lofty, emotional/physical goal that will potentially positively affect their health (such as weight loss, ED recovery etc.), friends, family and counselors can provide essential support and hold the goal-setter accountable during times of struggle. But if the goal is a “fun goal”–one that is being set for personal satisfaction –then I think there is no problem keeping the goal “secret.” (But only if the secrecy TRULY makes you feel better/more comfortable!) :-)

    • Katie says:

      Yes! I totally agree with you. I think it’s all about the motivation behind keeping the goal private – if it’s for a perfectly reasonable reason, then no problem. But if it’s because of a debilitating fear of looking like a failure, then it’s a different story.

  10. hehe. Girl, you are adorable :)

    First of all, go easy on yourself! We ALL have secret goals. And you know what? I have some that I will probably never mention on my blog, or tell *anyone* for that matter! But I know what you mean about being okay with the possibility of failure, so I appreciate and respect the fact that you “came clean” about your secret goal.

    You know why I love your blog (and you :) )? Because I can really see you moving forward in your healthy-lifestyle journey. You’re so conscious of the things you do and why you do them, and it’s quite inspiring!

  11. Tina says:

    I’ve never really kept secret goals, but that’s because I have trouble keeping anything in. Although I do feel that “pressure” to achieve my goals by telling other people and if I don’t I do feel “judged” or “unworthy” sometimes. So I completely relate to that!

    It is silly though. You accomplished something great and even if you didn’t beat that time, your accomplishment would not be any less. It is normal to want to be seen as a strong person in the eyes of those we love. Don’t feel bad for that. And how great you are recognizing there are things you shouldn’t be as concerned about. Thanks for being so open and honest. You are awesome and a total inspiration. :)

  12. Tamara says:

    I have secret goals that are a lot more sinister than wanting to break a certain time on a half marathon. They’re things like wanting to weigh five pounds less, wanting to have a certain thigh circumference, etc. I don’t tell people this because I don’t want them to know if I fail, but because I know it’s an unhealthy attitude. It’s easier to sneakily eat less than to tell my boyfriend that I’m trying to lose weight, because he would tell me to stop, and I never write about my “goals” on my blog unless I’m valiantly labeling them “insecurities” because I don’t want people to know how shallow I am.

  13. i think when i keep secret goals its the only way they actually work. when i open my mouth (which is too often haha) i end up failing… i think i just set myself up for it uno?.. but its so hard keeping secrets too.. especially if they are goals on how to do something to improve ur life.

  14. Jen says:

    This makes me think of Obama’s speech to students at the beginning of the school year when he quoted Michael Jordan as saying, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

    These words really stuck out to me, because they prove that you might not always succeed, but that hard work and perseverance really do pay off.

    • Katie says:

      That is such a great quote! Thank you for sharing it – I feel very inspired by it! :)

  15. Beth says:

    First and foremost, congrats on the half-marathon. That is tremendous!

    I have to say, I can completely relate to this “private goal” thing, and I even remember when it started for me. It was seventh-grade cheerleading tryouts. For reasons that still escape me, our school chose to announce (on the afternoon PA announcements) the girls who had been chosen for the junior high squad. A friend and I (we had both tried out) were sitting in class with everyone else as the chosen names were read. Everyone knew we had tried out, so they turned around in their seats to sort of give us a smile of encouragement or maybe just to see our reactions. Well … our names were not called. I remember feeling really embarrassed and I just wanted everyone to stop looking in my direction. To make matters worse, some well-meaning friends did the whole “don’t worry about it,” “they made a bad choice when they didn’t pick you guys,” etc. I just wanted to crawl under a desk and change the conversation topic at that point! I hated getting attention because I had “failed.” Sigh.

    And I’m still this way. It’s so sad. I love sports, and I’m a huge fan. Everyone who knows me, knows this. But if one of my favorite teams is in a big game, I will watch it by myself or with my husband. Why? Because if my favorite teams loses the big game, I’ll be annoyed/disappointed — and I don’t want people to see me in that moment of weakness. Even as I write this, I’m hoping none of my friends stumble on to this comment and recognize me as the commenter :)

    • Katie says:

      I really appreciate you sharing this comment. It’s not easy to admit this kind of stuff – believe me, I know! But I think it helps all of us to know that we’re not the only ones. I cannot believe they announced the cheerleaders that way; that’s ridiculous!

  16. I just wanted to chime in quickly on this because it seems like a lot of people can relate to doing this. I know I can. Whenever I do something, I usually have different levels of goals that I tell people. And sometimes I give them a goal that I THINK I can reach, as well as the one that I think would be really cool to reach.

    I can understand that your main problem with these types of goals comes from your motivation for doing it. And I can see your reasoning for wanting to work on this. But don’t be so hard on yourself.:) Everyone does it. And I think sometimes having secret goals can be a good thing! If I run a race and have a goal in my head or even my sub-conscious that is faster than what I tell people and then don’t make it…it sort of takes away from the accomplishment of what I just did. And then people feel like they have to make me feel better: “oh sorry you didn’t run X time, but you did really great” instead of just being genuinely excited for me. Does that make sense?

    Obviously we shouldn’t be afraid to fail. But I think giving ourselves that little extra motivation in the form of a goal only we know can sometimes help push us even further.

    • Katie says:

      That makes total sense! I think you just put my feelings into words, actually. If I had told everyone I wanted to come in under 2 hours and then didn’t, they would have spent the whole time trying to make me feel better instead of just celebrating joyfully!

  17. First of all, CONGRATS!! And secondly, I think getting it off of your chest is the first and most important step, recognizing that maybe it isnĀ“t the most edifying thing to do for you. And please know that everyone out there is pulling for you! You should be your own biggest fan, but know you have a lot of support out there, too, for any goal, secret or not.

  18. Bree says:

    Congrats again :) I can relate to this post. I have been afraid to verbalize goals for fear of failing in the eyes of others. You are not alone – thank you for sharing.

  19. Elina says:

    I do that too. :( I had a secret goal of 2 hours on my last half (which I would have reached if I didn’t pass out freaking 0.55 miles away from the finish line. Oh well, I learned my lesson. Next time my goal will truly be just finishing :D
    No tips for you from me since clearly I have the same problem ;)

  20. It’s crazy, reading this it’s just like I could have written it myself. Today I turned in my resume for a job that part of me thinks I’m perfect for but the other part feels like I’m SO out of my league. I haven’t told a soul…except now for you (and the rest of the daggone internet, haha). I’ve had this habit for a while. It seems so much easier to deal with your failures (or perceived failures) when you don’t have to explain them to somebody else. I’ve even kept entire romantic relationships a secret to avoid the potential pain of explaining a breakup months down the road. Not a good habit.

    • Katie says:

      I’ve done it with job applications too – I just hate the idea of everyone asking me about the job over and over again if I don’t have good news to share! I appreciate you leaving this comment; I’m sending positive vibes your way! :)

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