Do you have goals? Things that you’d like to achieve during the next month, year, or 10 years?
Goals are great. Goals help to give our life direction, they give us focus and the motivation to move forward. Achieving goals boosts our self-esteem and help us feel accomplished.
So how confident are you that you’ll achieve your goals?
If you want to achieve your goals, the science is clear – write them down!
Research from Dr Gail Matthews of the Dominican University of California shows that writing down goals will increase the likelihood that you will achieve them.
In fact, by regularly writing down your goals you are 42% more likely to achieve them.
Why is writing down your goals so much more effective than just thinking about them?
1. Writing your goals helps you remember them
The act of writing our goals had a positive impact on our brain. For one, it makes it easier for our brain to remember what the goals are. This is because writing enhances the brains encoding process – this is where your brain analyses what information it will it will put into your long-term memory.
There is also the ‘generation effect.’ Scientists have shown that you will more easily remember things you have generated yourself (in other words, written yourself) than things that you have only seen or read.
Also when you use external storage (eg a piece of paper, or a journal) you are not relying on your brain to file the information away – and the more you see it, the more you will remember it.
Once you have written down your goals, you can access it and review them easily. Put your goals where you can see them. Whether you print them out and put them on your refrigerator, or mirror, or write a list in your planner, make sure you that you look at them every day.
The visual cue of seeing your goals not only makes it so much easier for you to remember your goals, it also helps you take action to work towards them.
By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.–Mark Victor Hansen
2. Writing your goals provides clarity
When you write down your goals you clarify what it is you really want. Writing takes an intangible concept and makes it real. When you write your goals use a positive statement such as “I will” rather than “I want to” or “I would like to”.
Use the SMART goal methodology to help you define what it is you want to achieve, and identify when you have achieved it (remember to celebrate when you do!).
Make your goal SPECIFIC
What exactly is it you want to achieve, and why do you want to achieve it? The more abstract a goal is the less likely it is you will be able to achieve it.
Make your goal MEASURABLE
Define how will you measure your goal. Without a measure, you won’t know if you have been successful.
Make your goal ATTAINABLE
Ask yourself how you are going to attain this goal. Is it realistic? Don’t make it too easy though. While it’s important to make sure your goal is attainable, you’ll be more motivated to reach towards it when your goal challenges you, that is when it takes you slightly out of your comfort zone. Not only will you feel more motivated to tackle a challenging goal, but you’ll also feel a greater sense of achievement when you reach it.
Make your goal RELEVANT
The goals you set need to be relevant to you, your values and the direction you want to head in. Remember, goals bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. Your goals need to take you in that direction, not down a random pathway.
Make your goal TIME BOUND
What’s your deadline? When will you have achieved it? When your goal has a deadline you’ll be more motivated to reach it, and you’ll know if you have been successful.
An example of a SMART goal for someone aiming to improve their fitness could be:
- I will run 5K in under 20 min by March 30.
3. Writing your goals prompts you into action
Making an action plan is probably THE most important part of goal setting.
A goal without a plan is just a wish― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Write down the steps you need to take to reach your goal? Drill down and get specific.
What needs to change in your life to get where you want to be?
What strategies do you need to do daily, weekly, and monthly to achieve your goal?
4. Writing your goals helps you to track your progress
If you want to achieve your goals don’t just set and forget them. Once you’ve developed an action plan you need to review it regularly to make sure you are on target.
There will be times when your progress stalls, you get distracted or priorities change. You may need to make adjustments to keep you on track.
Tracking your progress is empowering. There will no doubt be times where you feel frustrated or discouraged. Or times when it all seems too hard. However, when you can see how far you’ve come, you’ll feel motivated to continue.
And when you’ve reached your goal?
You might be tempted to jump into your next goal straight away, but when you reach a goal it’s really important to pause. While you might think it’s super-productive to just keep going powering on without a break to catch your breath, doing this can lead to burn-out, which is detrimental to your health, wellness and productivity.
So don’t let the occasion pass without acknowledging all the effort that you’ve put in to get where you are now.
Tell people. Don’t diminish your achievements. Accept congratulations with grace, and be proud of yourself!
Take some time to enjoy your accomplishment, then reflect on your journey. What was enjoyable about the process? What didn’t you enjoy? Are you still heading in the direction you want to be going in, or do you need to make some adjustments?
Keep a list (or a journal), of all the goals you’ve achieved – relationships, fitness, health, career, finance, fun – all of them. It’s wonderful to collate your achievements and to look back at them any time you need reminding that YES you CAN do it!