Here’s Why a Secret Goal Will Help You Achieve More

This content is recommended for 30~60 minute sessions. Note that tutors may not be familiar with the content. Make sure you consult with your tutor before using this material. 


After a quick greeting, read the following article out loud. Your tutor will go over pronunciation if necessary.

[P1] Inspired by Herschel Walker, I recently created a goal to get to the point of being able to do 200 pushups every other day. I asked myself if I could be 10 percent as good as the football legend who does 2,000 in a day and I believe I can. The whole point is to get into better shape and bodyweight exercises are something I can do between emails without leaving the confines of my home office. I haven’t reached my goal yet, but I’m up to 140 (not at one time, and all on my knees) which is pretty good for a middle-aged individual such as myself. I fully expect this endeavor (which also includes 300 squats) to be body-transforming.

[P2] Regardless of what you want to transform in your life, you’ll need a specific goal if you want to make it happen. Here’s what research has to say on the subject (including the fact that I just broke a fundamental rule of goal-setting).

Setting a goal will help you achieve more.
[P3] According to research conducted at the University of Leicester in England, people who have goals work harder and perform better. Participants were tasked with adding several two-digit numbers together. One group was told it was expected to get at least 10 problems correct, another instructed to get at least 15 right, and a control group was not given a goal. Both groups given goals calculated their answers faster and more accurately, with the higher-goal group performing best of all. There was a gender difference, as well, with men outperforming women when given a goal. “One reason could be that the goal creates a competitive environment, which is consistent with the literature on how competition affects men and women differently,” the study author writes.

The most effective goals are specific and difficult.
[P4] Researchers have found that when people are told to do their best, they don’t because having no external reference point allows for a wide range of performance levels. It makes sense. If you want to lose weight you’ll do it faster having a goal to run five miles a day instead of saying to yourself “I’m going to run every day.” If the latter was your goal, running one mile-;which would burn roughly 100 calories-;would meet the goal. If you run five miles, however, you’ll burn 500 and get slimmer faster.

If you really want to reach a goal, keep it secret.
[P5] While it may seem that announcing your goal to the world will help keep you accountable, researchers have found a weird psychological phenomenon happens, instead. When other people take notice of your goal it gives you a premature feeling of having accomplished it. That false sense of achievement works as a detriment to hitting your target.



Read the word/expression and definition out loud. Your tutor will go over anything you do not understand. Practice creating a sentence or two to make sure you know how to use the word/expression properly.

Vocabulary/ Expressions

Expression Definition
confine (n) the limits or edges of something
e.g. the narrow confines of academia
endeavor (n) a serious effort or attempt
e.g. He failed despite his best endeavors. [=efforts]
control group (n) a group of people who are used for comparing another group to in a test or experiment
e.g. The larger the control group sample is, the more reliable and repeatable the results of the promotion will be.
premature (adj) happening too soon or earlier than usual
e.g. is retirement seems premature.
detriment (n) something that will cause damage or injury to something or someone — usually singular — often + to
e.g. He saw the new regulations as a detriment to progress.

Discussion Questions

Use the following questions as a guideline to help develop an interesting conversation with your tutor. Feel free to diverge from these suggestions if anything interesting comes up.

  1. Summarize the article in your own words.
  2. Share some of the goals you have for this year.
  3. What are some qualities of the most effective goals?
  4. Do you agree with the author that keeping your goal a secret is better? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!


Go over any new expressions or vocabulary that you learned today.

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