Ever heard about the 1953 study on goals where only 3% of Yale students had specific written goals for their future? 20 years later that group was earning 10 times more than their other classmates. I must have heard about this study a dozen times – its made the motivational speaker circuit for years… even just yesterday I was listening to Darren Hardy say that by writing down my goals I’m joining the top 3%. The only problem – this study never happened!
Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. – Tony Robbins
Don’t despair though, a researcher named Dr. Gail Matthews from the Dominican University in California set out to find out whether writing down our goals actually matters. Matthews recruited 267 participants from a variety of countries, occupations and ages. They were randomly assigned to one of 5 groups.
- Group 1 was asked to think about their goals.
- Group 2 was asked to write their goals down.
- Group 3 was asked to write their goals down and formulate action commitments.
- Group 4 was asked to do all of these things plus send the action commitments to a supportive friend.
- Group 5 was asked to write their goals down, formulate action commitments and send a weekly progress report to a supportive friend.
The participants were asked to rate their progress and how effectively they had achieved their goals. While group 1 only achieved 43% of their goals, group 5 achieved 76%. It is worth noting that while writing down goals gave the participants an initial bump from 43% to 64%, there wasn’t much difference added by writing down action steps or even sending the goals to a friend. The next big jump came with adding a weekly accountability task.
Accountability breeds response-ability. – Stephen Covey
If you want to achieve your goals you should:
- Write them down
- Formulate action commitments
- Send a weekly progress report to a supportive friend, coach or mentor.
If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build end up building us. – Jim Rohn