WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS
New Year’s resolutions are created by 60% of Americans and we’ve already learned that less than 10% achieve those resolutions. In everyday goal-setting, 80% of Americans say they do not have a goal, and 16% say they have goals but do not write them down. So that means only 3-5% of Americans write down their goals and only 1% review and check them frequently (“The Harvard MBA business school study on goal-setting”, n.d). David Kohl, professor at Virginia Tech, claimed that people who write down their goals will earn nine times as much income over their lifetime than people who do not write down their goals (http://pma-co.com/setting-and-getting-to-your-goal/). Therefore, writing down your goals is key to defeating the pitfall of lack of action. Take action and get your goals out of your mind and onto a paper or computer!
The human brain has around 60,000 thoughts per day, or roughly 50 thoughts per minute (https://www.successconsciousness.com/blog/inner-peace/how-many-thoughts-does-your-mind-think-in-one-hour/). Having a goal in your mind is helpful, but with all those thoughts flying around how can you stay focused on your goals? Keeping a goal in your mind and not putting it on paper makes it easier to let go of the goal. When life gets difficult, it’s easier to just throw out the old thought and replace it with a new one. Your mind jumps from one thought to another – never stopping for long periods of time. Taking action to get your goals out of your thoughts and onto a paper is a mandatory step to complete your goals. Can you reach your goals without writing them down? Yes, it’s possible. But the odds of you reaching your goal increase significantly when you do write them down!
Let’s take a look at some research on goal-setting to back up this theory with empirical data. Dr. Gail Matthews from Ohio Dominican University conducted a prominent study on goal-setting and how it impacts goal-achievement (Anderson, 2013). There were five different groups in her study who made goals using different techniques and were studied to see if they achieved their goals over a four-week period. The first group set goals in their mind. Each group after that did the same, but then added another technique to the process. For example, the second group set a goal in their mind, wrote them down, and rated them. The third group set goals in their mind, wrote them down, rated them, and also made action commitments for their goals. Below are the group details:
Group 1 – Think about the goals they hoped to achieve in a month.
Group 2 – Write down their goals and rate them.
Group 3 – Write down their goals, rate them, and make action commitments for each goal.
Group 4 – Write down their goals, rate them, make action commitments for each goal, and share the goals with a friend.
Group 5 – Write down their goals, rate them, make action commitments for each goal., and send a weekly report to a friend.
This prominent study, produced significant findings. Group 1 only achieved 46% of the goals they hoped to achieve, while Group 4 achieved 67% of the goals they wrote down and shared with a friend. Group 5 did the best – achieving 76% of their goals! Dr. Matthews concluded that the study illustrates the usefulness of accountability, commitment, and writing down goals as teaching tools. If we look at this example like an exam, then we can see that writing down goals, reviewing them, and holding yourself accountable with another person increases your grade by almost half.
People who create a physical set of written or typed goals will almost double the number of goals they achieve. If you want to own that mansion you drive by every day to work, you can increase your chances by simply writing it down. Two minutes to write down your goal will increase your chances of achieving it. I believe the time is worth the investment! Another interesting idea is that it doesn’t matter what you write down or what goal you want to achieve. The research doesn’t say that your odds increase or decrease based on the size of your goal (“The Harvard MBA business school study on goal-setting”, n.d.). In fact, philosophically speaking the Law of Attraction asserts that the size of your goal does not matter. You can attract anything into your life, and you can increase your chances just by writing it down!
We have to be realistic with our goals, but with the tools listed in this book and enough time and perseverance, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Obviously, if you set a goal to earn $1,000,000 this month and you typically earn $2,000 per month, it’s going to be next-to-impossible to achieve that goal. However, you can eventually earn $1,000,000 per month if you have a written or typed plan, work relentlessly toward that plan, and hold yourself accountable to the plan. But it starts with writing it down. Make it tangible and watch how real your goal and vision become.
We’ve looked at research on writing down goals now let’s take a look at the science behind it. Our brains have a right and a left hemisphere or side. The right hemisphere is the imagination-based side of your brain, while the left side is the logic-based side of your brain. There is a physical connection between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. The corpus callosum consists of a bundle of neural fibers that can carry electrical signals back and forth from the imaginative-based right side of the brain to the logic-based left side of the brain. The electrical signals from the two hemispheres make contact in the corpus callosum and move into the fluid that surrounds the brain. This fluid goes up and down the spinal column and allows signals to be sent throughout our bodies. The signals then communicate with every cell in the entire human body (Morrisey, 2016)!
Ok, that was a serious science lesson and can be difficult to understand. I know why I struggled in Biology class and became a football coach. The scientific details may be difficult to understand, but even a football coach can translate that when the two sides of your brain work together you can achieve BIG results! Just like with a football team, if you can get the offense and defense working together as a team then anything is possible. When you get both sides of your brain working together, then every cell and fiber in your body start working to turn your thoughts into reality. Therefore, if you just think about your goals, you are only using the imaginative-based side of your brain. But, if you write down the goals you’ve been thinking of, you tap into the logic-based side of your brain. Your brain then sends a message to your consciousness and every cell in your body that says, “This is what we want, and we mean business!”
Writing down your goals creates an entirely new space of consciousness of which you’re not aware. New ideas, philosophies, and thoughts get to work in the driving force that is your subconscious. Once your goals are written down, your subconscious starts piecing together information into new opportunities that you simply could not see before because you are busy thinking about your goals. Now, your subconscious – without you realizing it – will focus on ideas that create your goals into reality because you are clear on where you are headed (Morrisey, 2016).
Clarity is the result of writing down your goals and is communicated with the logic-based side of your brain. By writing your goals down you have made it clear that this thought matters and it’s imperative that you achieve it. Also, writing down your goals shifts what you focus on throughout everyday life. Your awareness for new opportunities increases because you are constantly piecing together all of the information you can use to achieve your goal. Information or opportunities that you might have missed before can now be seen because of your new focus!
For example, let’s say you have a goal of getting out of your current job of working at a bank. You dream of how nice it would be to make enough money to work from home and spend more time traveling, but you cannot imagine what you could do to make enough money from home. Going back to school is not an option, and you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Your goal stays a daydream and you just keep wishing it will happen.
One day after a long day of work, you decide to write down your goal, “Make $100,000 per year working from home so I can have the freedom to travel the country.” Now you start focusing on the ideas that you need to create that reality. You start seeing new opportunities that you wouldn’t have noticed before. You are listening to a podcast and hear an interesting interview about the need for virtual assistants and you start looking into how that works. You find that you can make a living working from your computer from remote locations, and now you are ready to make the leap. But you could have never seen this opportunity if you had not written down your goals.
Don’t become another failed resolution statistic. You need to write down your goals! This is a really fun exercise that will give you clarity and reduce stress. You get to pick out your best possible life and write down all the things you want to achieve in the near future. It’s like designing your perfect life, and there are no restrictions! Just think about what would give you joy, fulfillment, and the feeling that you are a success. Subscribe to my website (www.coachjohnpennington.com) to get the goal worksheets from my book Small Wins = Big Gains.
If you want to find out more about the book, download my GOAL-SETTING CHEAT SHEET for FREE by following the link below.