Why you should write your goals down

Research shows the difference in outcomes when you write your goals down versus keeping them in your head.

Go to the profile of Dr David R Hamilton
Feb 08, 2015
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I personally find that writing things down helps me focus. The same can be said of writing your goals down. Research shows that we’re more likely to achieve them if we put pen to paper.

Research at the Dominican University of California involved 149 people aged between 23 and 72 years old, from many different backgrounds and cultures.

The purpose of the research was to compare some different techniques and strategies used to achieve our goals.

Group 1 was asked to think about goals they’d like to accomplish over the next 4 weeks and reflect on the importance of the goal.

Group 2, instead, was asked to write down their goals and reflect on their importance, as group 1 had done.

Group 3 went a little further. Not only were they to write down their goals but they were also asked to commit to taking some actions on them.

Group 4 went further still, writing their goals down, reflecting on their importance, committing to taking actions steps, but they also sent these action commitments to a supportive friend.

Group 5 did all that group 4 did, but they also made weekly progress reports to their supportive friend.

Well, as you might have guessed, Group 2 achieved more than Group 1; 42% more, in fact. Group 5 achieved the most of all the groups, showing the value of action and having a friend to ensure you follow through.

One of the most important factors emerging from the research was the value in writing our goals down. Writing down our goals better helps us focus on them. Otherwise, we tend to forget about them, especially as we get swept up in the busyness of life. Having your goals on paper means you tend to see them more often, whether it’s a glance at them on your desk, or seeing them stuck to the refrigerator each time you go for some food, or even finding them folded up in your purse or wallet.

Seeing our goals more often helps us focus on them more, so that when opportunities arise that can help us move a step closer, we are more likely to notice these opportunities and act on them.

I have personally found action to be highly important too. Whenever I run a goal setting exercise at a workshop, I encourage people to not only write down some actions, but commit to taking at least one of the actions within the next 3 days.

It’s easy to feel pumped up at a seminar, especially if you’re inspired by the teacher or the possibilities you’re now seeing, and you’re also surrounded by like-minded people who are supportive of your hopes and aspirations, but once you go back to your life, your commitment to your goals often wanes and the goal gradually seems unrealistic or improbable. It is safer and easier to stay where you are.

I fondly reflect back on a big action I took in 1999 after attending a 4-day ‘Unleash the Power Within’ seminar led by Tony Robbins. I resigned from my job the next day back at work, fuelled by my vision to be a writer and public speaker. If I didn’t take the action as quickly after the seminar, if another day or two had passed without me doing anything, I think my courage would probably have dissipated and I would have found several reasons why it really was just a silly idea to leave a very well paid job, with great career prospects, in pursuit of a pipe dream.

I can tell you now with the greatest sincerity, that after writing 8 books and speaking in front of audiences of hundreds and thousands around the world, I am glad I took that action.

Go to the profile of Dr David R Hamilton

Dr David R Hamilton

Author and speaker, -

Author of 8 books, including 'How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body', 'Why Kindness is Good for You', and the forthcoming, 'I Heart Me: The Science of Self-Love' (Feb 2015)

4 Comments

Go to the profile of Susannah Hebden
Susannah Hebden almost 3 years ago

Are you doing any workshops/talks at the moment? I find I'm very good at starting things and I'm very good at 'to do' list making but not so good at keeping the momentum and enthusiasm going. Its a constant frustration and I only have myself to blame!

Go to the profile of Dr David R Hamilton
Dr David R Hamilton almost 3 years ago

Hi Susanna! Yes, I'm doing lots. Here's my event listings: http://drdavidhamilton.com/see-david-in-person/ I can relate to your challenge. I can be quite expert at that myself. :-) One thing I have found useful, if I've set a goal, is to try to take 4 actions in a month, and they don't need to be one a week; you could end up doing them all in week 3, for example. I found it helps us take it easier on ourselves if we tend to be self-critical. There's no need to blame yourself. You are only human and, actually, most people I know are exactly like you in this regard. It's funny, but knowing this actually helps. I used to get frustrated with myself and that's because I was comparing my motivation, action, and self-confidence levels against high achievers. It helped to learn that most people who have successes in their lives are actually just normal, with normal levels of motivation and self-confidence. Somehow, I have found, it takes the pressure off a little, at least in how we feel frustration with ourselves. I hope that helps a little. :-)

Go to the profile of Carol Harley
Carol Harley almost 3 years ago

Many thanks for this David will start to write my goals down also find visualisation works as well . I expect if the goals are written down you will remember them better Thanks for this,article love your work your an inspiration Carol Harley

Go to the profile of Sakura Zaman Rajani
Sakura Zaman Rajani almost 3 years ago

Thank you for for the post.This will help me a lot to achieve my goals. :):)