If you’ve read anything about achieving your goals or sticking to resolutions, you’ve probably heard of the study where students from Harvard were asked to write down their goals.
The story goes that researchers asked graduating seniors if they had written down their goals for the future. Just three percent had. Those same people were surveyed again twenty years later and the researchers found that the 3% with written goals had accumulated more wealth than the other 97% combined.
Even if you’re one of the few people who haven’t heard this before, it’s a compelling argument, wheeled out regularly by motivational coaches and internet advice gurus. But it turns out, like many of the alternative facts coming out these days, the study never actually happened.
Here at Go-do.it, despite knowing the original study was a myth, we thought there must still be something to it, and we were relieved to find we weren’t the only ones.
Dr Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California thought so too, and set out to see if she could prove or disprove the theory. Thankfully, her study found that writing down your goals did indeed help you achieve more. In fact people who wrote down their goals achieved 42% more than people who just thought about them.
Obviously we were stoked that we haven’t all been running around blindly following the advice of a fabricated study. But it got us thinking, what is it about writing down your goals that dramatically increases your chances of success?
Get clear on what you want
Recording your goals (on paper or online) gives you clarity. Before you can write something down or add it to a list, you have to think about what you want to do and make a decision about whether it’s important enough for you to commit it to writing. This process gives you much more clarity than simply daydreaming about all the different things you’d like to do.
Plus, when you actually write something down, you’re consciously admitting that this is something you want to do. And that’s a lot harder to ignore than a passing thought.
So I just write down my goals and that’s it?
Oh wouldn’t it be lovely if all you had to do was make a list and your goals then just magically happened?
Think of it like going on holiday. Unfortunately, even though you now know where you want to go, you won’t get there by sitting still. And whilst writing down your goals is an important first step, it’s not the only one.
What else can you do to increase your chances?
1 – make the goals specific
A lot of goals don’t happen because they’re really general and it’s hard to know if you’ve actually achieved them. For example, it’s really hard to ‘get fit’ because how do you actually know when you’re ‘fit’?
2 – Make a plan
Big goals can seem unachievable, especially if there are a lot of steps you need to take to get there. Making a plan and breaking down what you need to do, will make the path much clearer for you, helping you reduce procrastination and indecision, and making you much more likely to take action.
3 – Tell your friends!
There’s nothing like a bit of social pressure to keep you on track. The Dominican University goals study found that telling your friends about your goals helped people achieve 25% more goals than if they kept them to themselves. The study also showed that you also get added ‘likelihood of achieving your goals’ points if you send them weekly updates on your progress.
Want more on how to set effective goals? Check out our step-by-step guide here.
How can go-do.it help?
As helping you actually achieve your goals is basically what we live for, writing down your goals is the first step in the go-do.it journey. We’ve got tons of inspiration to get the creative juices flowing and help you pick out your goals. Click here to set your first goals.
But remember, it doesn’t stop there – after you’ve committed your goals to writing, we’ll help you join the dots, by putting you in touch with people who can help you so you actually take action. And soon, we’ll also be running challenges and helping you break down your goals into manageable steps to make it really easy for you.
What are you waiting for? Take that first step today, and set your first goals with go-do.it. We can’t wait to see what you achieve!
Also published on Medium.