According to a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down.
Or think of it like this:
If you set two goals that you failed to reach in the past, start writing them down. If everything else is equal, you will likely achieve at least one of the two goals.
To make it work even better:
Write your goals down repeatedly.
But surprisingly, most people don’t even know what to write.
Why It’s Important To Set Goals
Without knowing where you want to go, you’re like a ship out in the deep seas with no direction.
Through setting goals, you’re able to identify where you want to go. As a result, you can create a plan to get there.
Let’s jump in.
If improving your chances of success is not enough, here is a list of many of the other benefits:
- Peace of Mind
Increase Your Motivation
Many studies have established that challenging yourself increases motivation.
Studies correlate goal setting with reaching optimal conditions for the flow state.
Flow is when you’re so locked in on the effort that you don’t notice anything else.
Getting in flow helps you work more efficiently and ultimately achieve more.
Everyone has the same amount of hours each day. Twenty-four hours to get as much done as you want.
It’s how you work in those hours, a direct result of flow, that differentiates success and failure.
How To Set Goals And Achieve Them
If you search “how to set goals and achieve them” on Google, then you will discover millions of searcg results. It’s overwhelming.
So let’s start with the basics.
So what is a goal?
Here is the definition:
The desired result in the future that an individual or team wants to achieve.
In other words:
- the aim of the effort
- the final destination
- something that you want to achieve
- the bullseye
Goals vs. Objectives
You may think that they’re the same but they’re not.
So what’s the difference?
Let me explain.
- Specific completion date
- Do not have a specific completion date
- Not usually tracked
Let’s go back in time and look at the goal setting theory.
Theories behind success have been around for a long time.
Here’s a quick timeline:
- It started with Aristotle’s Final Causality Theory.
- Later, in 1935, the first empirical study on goal setting was carried out by Cecil Alec Mace.
- Then, in the 1960s, Edwin A. Locke published his theory. He called it the Theory of Task Motivation. Locke continued to research goals for more than 30 years.
But it goes back more:
The process of aiming at the thing we want to hit is part of human evolution.
Think about it.
Every major success in the history of the world is related to aiming at something.
- The Wright brothers flight
- Apollo 11’s trip to the moon
- The invention of the lightbulb
- Creating Facebook
The E-E-E Model
According to the E-E-E Model, as mentioned in a published journal by the American Psychological Association (APA), a person-centered approach is the main contributor to how a plan leads to results.
Here is what that means: Setting goals was described as serving three purposes:
- Enlightening: Significant insights into our strengths and weaknesses which helps us prioritize our needs.
- Encouraging: Inspires and empowers us to execute our plans efficiently. And achieve more.
- Enabling: Bridges the gap between our current and ideal self.
You’ve probably heard about SMART goals at some point. It’s likely you’ve seen a template for them in textbooks and classrooms.
Here is what SMART stands for:
There are some important elements to them, of course, but they are missing key components that are crucial to success (more on this later).
Types of Goals
Let’s look at the types of goals you can set in your life:
In the psychology world, they are often broken down into three types:
- Process: Involves the execution of plans. For example, going for your morning run. It’s all about developing habits that will lead to achievement.
- Performance: Helps with tracking progress and motivates us to have a reason to work hard. Quantifying our time and energy helps too.
- Outcome: Involve process and performance to keep us focused on the big picture, our long-term success. An example would be winning a championship, achieving your ideal body fat percentage, or qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
Now, look at the more specific types:
In other words: you can aim for anything.
For me, I like to simplify things as much as possible. If you want to simplify it, focus on these two types of goals:
That should make it easier.
Some call these umbrella goal categories but let’s simply call them types.
Most college dropouts lack aim.
Getting clear on aim helps people stay in school and earn degrees.
Learning is everywhere, and becoming a lifelong learner raises performance in every industry.
Clear aim improves performance through the urge to put forth the effort necessary to achieve hard tasks.
Through focused actions, and aligning your lifestyle with other areas to help you out, you’re really starting to build up the momentum now!
Just telling yourself, “This year, I’m going to…” isn’t enough.
Set Goals The Right Way
There are certain mistakes I’ve observed that competitive athletes, marathon runners, and fitness enthusiasts make repeatedly.
On the journey to improving athletic performance, losing weight or fat, or preventing injury, a lack of aim keeps people stuck, spinning their wheels and eventually quitting.
Let’s make sure this is not you.
It’s not a new concept, but it’s what Olympic athletes and world-class champions and teams do.
Set Your Goals by Actually Writing Them Down
If you want to improve your chances, even more, try writing down your goal three consecutive times at each breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Doing this will take you a total of fewer than five minutes per day. See if you can do it for seven straight days.
There are a lot of factors that come into play, of course, but the point is that you can improve your chances very quickly without adding significant time or energy.
Use Technology to Help With Tracking Data
There are so many fun apps available to download for free to help create healthy habits too.
They will help you track your numbers and stay focused on the goal through a colorful visual of your journey.
A training tracker is one way.
By being able to see a visual of your journey, in numbers, you’ll be more likely to perceive the progress.
This helps you persevere, especially during challenging times.
Ultimately, you will succeed at achieving more if you are engaged with your progress.
Keep It Simple
2-3 important metrics are usually all that you need to focus on.
If you’re struggling to focus on what needs to get done, check out this free guide on mindfulness exercises.
Read Them Out Loud on a Daily Basis
When you read your intentions out loud, speak like you truly believe they will come true.
You can literally begin to speak your success into existence.
Set long-term, short-term, and daily goals for yourself to reach—and continue to remind yourself as much as possible.
Break down decades, years, or seasons of your life into chunks of time.
Envision the road to your long-term results.
Keep Your Circle Small
Big success requires stacking the odds in your favor as best as possible.
Don’t let others drain your energy.
Be selective with how you spend your weekends.
Choose how you spend time on your weekends wisely.
Fill your brain with content that supports your journey.
Never stop feeding yourself new information.
Be a lifelong learner and keep working on yourself.
- Level of clarity
- Level of priority
- The likelihood of achievement
- Duration (amount of time)
- Intensity (level of energy)
- Resistance (or friction)
- Quantity or complexity (number of subgoals needed to achieve)
- Schedule Weird Reminders
- Utilize goals tab in the Google Calendar mobile app. Be creative with the way you write your reminders.
- Draw on your hand.
- Place bright post-it notes in your car, at your desk, or next to the toilet.
Create a Specific Plan For Progress
According to a study in British Journal of Health Psychology, 91% of people who planned how they would achieve their goals ended up following through, whereas only 35% reached the same goal without writing them down.
Correctly, they specified when and where they planned to workout each week.
I lost count of how many times I have seen this come true in my client’s lives.
They may already be extremely self-motivated and driven but scheduling their specific plans for working out makes a huge difference.
It also helps people workout more efficiently and opens up time for other things in their life.
Feel The Progress
Harvard Business Review found that the most significant factor that influences our success is perceiving the progress.
By feeling the growth we are making, our brain releases chemicals which help reinforce the effort.
We build momentum.
If you reflect on anything that you have achieved, you probably realize the impact of feeling the progress and how it can help motivate you to improve the quantity and quality of your effort.
It’s essential to track your specific performance metrics that relate to your particular goal.
Find Someone to Hold You Accountable
People who have a supportive family member, friend, or coach tend to do better.
Take it a step further and ask them to hold you accountable.
The power of accountability is profound.
It’s also been shown to improve focus and consistency.
Feedback is excellent if it is coming from the right people too.
Develop Habits That Align With Your Ideal Vision
Build new positive habits and eliminate bad habits.
If you want to improve your performance, you need to cultivate the habit of effort.
Effort: Hard, Smart, Consistent
I break effort down into three main parts: hard, smart, and consistent.
By strengthening your effort muscle, you achieve more. Not easy to do, but it is simple.
The process of daily effort can even be considered a habit.
Like a habit, it’s something that takes practice.
Be Specific With Where You Are Now And Where You Want To Be
Get on a straight path. If the picture in your mind is clear, you have an enhanced awareness of the job at hand.
With more awareness, you can appreciate life more.
All of this is an added bonus to achieving more success.
Scott Fishman is the founder of AllWorldU. He’s coached hundreds of athletes on 6 continents. Some of his clients include coaches, trainers, physical therapists, doctors, and elite athletes.