Want to make sure you accomplish your goals? Write them down.
Whether it’s landing a dream job or running a marathon or writing a novel, we’ve all fantasized about reaching a big goal. But the key to turning those big goals into reality is to write them down.
The power and psychology of writing your goals down
It’s easy to rouse enthusiasm for our goals in the beginning. When our goals seem shiny and new, we make an effort to hit the gym, we make healthy meals for ourselves, we meditate in our free time. But when the reality of hard work and discipline start to set in and our busy lives get in the way, our goals seem to lose their luster. That’s why 80 percent of Americans give up on their new year’s resolutions within a month after setting them.
Here’s why you should write down your goals to ensure success.
A study showed that participants who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to accomplish them.
One reason is due to a process called encoding. Writing things down helps your brain retain this information. And when we generate this information through handwriting, rather than just merely thinking about it or reading about it, the information sticks easier. That’s why note taking has also been shown to help with studying, learning new concepts, and memorization.
Writing down your goals gives you clarity
Another big reason to write down your goals? You have much more clarity on what you want to achieve.
It’s really hard to take action on an abstract goal or a feeling. For example, a vague goal like “I want to make more money” is difficult to pursue because it doesn’t connect to a specific outcome or result. And “making more money” can mean a lot of different things. For some people, earning more money means being able to live comfortably. Whereas other people may want to earn more money to afford a high-end, luxurious life.
But writing down your goal can provide some much needed clarity on what it is you truly want. The act of writing allows you to slow down and consider what really matters to you.
And when you have a clear goal in place, you then have an easier time mapping out a plan to make it come to fruition.
An effective way to write down goals
Now that we understand the psychology behind writing down goals, here’s how to effectively write down your goals so that you can give yourself the best chance at achieving it.
As mentioned earlier, it’s not enough to have a vague or abstract goal like “make more money” or “feel happier.” In order to create a goal that will give you positive results, you’ll want to design it using the SMART Method.
The SMART Method is a tried-and-true goal setting process that will help you formulate a successful goal. So instead of setting a goal that is too vague or too challenging, a SMART goal is one that is clearly defined and much more practical.
A SMART goal is:
Specific. It’s hard to reach a goal if you don’t have a destination in mind. A specific goal has a clear result or outcome. It will also give you something to aim for. Examples of specific goals include: run a marathon, read ten books, write a screenplay, apply for a managerial position at my company, etc.
Measurable. A SMART goal is a goal that can be monitored and measured. You want a goal that is measurable so that you can track your progress along the way, and see if you’re actually moving closer to your goal. This helps you stay engaged and also lets you know to adjust your process if necessary. So if your goal is to work out more, you can measure it by how often you workout, the length of your workouts, and the number of reps you do.
Attainable. A SMART goal is one that is both challenging and practical. You want a goal that is challenging enough that it will sustain your interest, but not so out of reach that you’ll want to give up. The sweet spot is a goal that is slightly out of your comfort zone. You’ll also want to make sure that you have the time, energy, and resources to commit to it. For example, if your goal is to run a marathon, but you’ve never worked out before, you might want to start with a more mid-size goal like “run a 5k.” Once you’ve accomplished that goal, then you can set your sights on bigger goals.
Relevant. Are you seeking this goal because your peers are doing it? Or is this goal truly relevant to your life and interests? A goal that is authentic to you and supports your career and personal growth is a goal that you’ll have an easier time sticking with.
Time-bound. It’s easy to lose sight of a goal if we think we have all the time in the world to accomplish it. Giving yourself a deadline will help you stay committed to your goal and put a little fire under you to achieve it.
You can use our free SMART goals worksheet to help you formulate and write down your goals.
Writing down your goals gives you an action plan
Writing down your goal makes it easier to come up with a plan and identify all the steps you need to take to reach it.
In order to come up with an action plan, it helps to work backwards. So start with the outcome you want and then work backwards to determine the steps you would need to get there. So, for example, let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. Working backwards, your plan would look like this:
- Run marathon
- Run 10 miles
- Run 5 miles
- Run a 5K
- Run for ten minutes without stopping
Big goals take time, patience, and hard work to achieve. But the simple act of writing down your goal can give you the strong foundation you need to see it through successfully until the end.