Most people drive through life without bothering to write down their goals. Very few people have specific and measurable goals, and even fewer have written these goals down.
An even smaller amount has also thought of a specific plan to make these goals a reality.
But does writing down your goals really help, or is it just a myth? If it really helps, what's the best goal-setting strategy?
Forbes reports a remarkable study about goal-setting carried out in the Harvard MBA Program.
Harvard's graduate students were asked if they have set clear, written goals for their futures, as well as if they have made specific plans to transform their fantasies into realities.
The result of the study was only 3 percent of the students had written goals and plans to accomplish them, 13 percent had goals in their minds but haven't written them anywhere and 84 percent had no goals at all.
Think for a moment which group you belong to.
After 10 years, the same group of students were interviewed again and the conclusion of the study was totally astonishing.
The 13 percent of the class who had goals, but did not write them down, earned twice the amount of the 84 percent who had no goals.
The 3 percent who had written goals were earning, on average, 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of the class combined.
People who don't write down their goals tend to fail easier than the ones who have plans.
This study proves that statement, even if the only criteria was the monetary reward of each Harvard graduate.
When you don't have a plan, you don't know how you will reach your destination.
Sure, you know what your destination is and you have a general idea about how you can reach it, but it's not something that will lead you there for sure.
Think of it like driving in a foreign country. Let's say you are in Venice, Italy and you want to go to Munich, Germany.
The only thing you do is get into your car and choose a road mostly based on luck or instinct. Then you just drive.
You search for signs that will help you find Munich, but it's difficult to find the correct way.
You don't have a map or GPS to guide you. You just drive until you reach your destination.
The possibility that you will find the correct way to Munich is very tiny. It's similar to having goals that are not specific and roaming free inside your head.
You know only where you want to go, but you don't know the exact path that will lead you there.
Your map/GPS is like your written goals.
But is this enough? Of course, not. Setting is inefficient if you don't take these five steps to increase the odds of achieving your goals:
1. Figure out your goals.
If you are not sure, answering these questions will help:
- How much money do you want to make each month?
- How will you make this money?
- How do you want your body to look?
- Where do you want to live? How do you imagine your ideal house?
- What do you want to achieve in your relationships?
- Do you want to follow any specific career path?
- Do you want to learn a new craft?
- Do you want to start a new hobby or learn a new skill?
2. Write these goals down.
Now, take a moment and again read the questions above. Take a piece of paper and start writing down your answers, but don't be afraid to write down impressive, huge goals.
If you can't find a paper, you could write the answers in a note on your phone or laptop.
But, I would recommend using a paper. Personally, I have my goals written on a whiteboard that's over my desk so I can see them every day, but I have also written my short-term goals in my phone.
3. Make sure you write specific goals.
"I want to lose 20 pounds of fat," is hugely different than, "I want to lose 20 pounds of fat in the next four months."
The second is specific and gives you a deadline that will push you to take action.
4. Always put deadlines in your written goals.
For the reason pointed out above. Make sure these deadlines are somehow realistic. You can't say you will gain 15 pounds of muscle in the next two weeks.
Put a deadline that is challenging enough to push you and motivate you to take action, without being extremely tough to achieve.
5. Under each written goal, write a specific three-step plan on how you will achieve this goal.
For example, if your goal is to lose 20 pounds of weight in four months, you could write:
- I will go to the gym and lift weights three times per week.
- I will eat 500 fewer calories each day.
- I will eat junk food and sweets only twice per week.
- I will drink fizzy drinks once per week.
- I will walk for 45 minutes every day.
Now you have a specific plan, or a roadmap that will lead you to your desired destination and achieving your goal.
This will ensure that you won't do the circle of Europe before reaching Munich.
Have you written down your goals? If yes, what is your experience with setting up goals and making specific plans?
Let me know in the comments below.