I studied once from Roger Reynolds, the composer. I was in a class in Washington DC with students from various artistic backgrounds: a director, a photographer, a musicologist, a DJ/drummer, an artist, and myself. We had all taken up internships at different institutions throughout the capital (I was at the Library of Congress, in the Division of Music). There was a lesson that came to my mind recently.

The professor was explaining a study involving progress and a sense of achievement in individuals. The experiment involved two groups of people, wherein every individual was given a project that had to be completed in a short period of time. In the first group, individuals were told to tell other participants about their project and their progress during the given timeframe. The second group, however, was forbidden from telling anyone anything about their project or their progress. For the second group, their work had to remain in secret. Both groups were given an identical timeframe to work on these projects.

The study showed that individuals in the first group felt a sense of great accomplishment and achievement just by discussing their projects, and they felt as if they had completed much of their work. Individuals in the second group felt as if they had barely made much progress at all on their work, and felt that they still had much to do. But the evidence showed that people in the first group actually completed far less than work than people in the second group. What does that mean?

I suppose when one tells a friend of a goal or major project, often the friend will respond positively and sometimes even congratulate him or her for making the decision to undertake that project. But the congratulations are not truly deserved, for none of the work has even begun. This can create a sense of accomplishment that unmotivates a person from actually starting/completing the work. Instead, if one decides upon a project and keeps it to himself or herself, then all responsibility lies with that person to begin work on that project. There is no premature congratulations. There is no reason to celebrate and skip the work. The work must be done.