I bet you have heard of the story about a study from Yale University. The story goes like this: In 1953, a group of researchers studied the graduating seniors from Yale University to determine how many of them had specific written goals for their future.
As it turned out, only 3% of the graduating students had written goals. And the rest, the 97% had no clear and specific goals and plans for their future.
And 20 years later, the researchers did a follow-up surveyed on the group of students from the class of 1953. Guess what the researchers discovered?
The 3% of students who had written goals had accumulated more personal financial wealth than the other 97% of the class combined.
Interesting story, but the thing is that the study did not take place. This story has been revolving in the personal development industry for years, but it is a myth.
Now, the Yale University study in 1953 never happened. But that doesn’t mean that goal setting isn’t working.
But, scientifically proven steps how to achieve your goals?
How to set and achieve your goals according to science?
Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor from Dominican University did conduct a study on how goal achievement is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and being accountable for those actions.
Matthews and her team recruited 267 participants from businesses, organizations, and networking groups. Their aged ranges from 23 to 72, came from across the world like the United States, India, Japan, Belgium, England, and more.
And the participants worked in a variety of industries including entrepreneurs, educators, artists, attorneys, bankers, managers, directors, non-profits, and more.
Dr. Gail Matthews then divided the participants into 5 groups:
Group 1 – Participants were simply asked to think about their goals (what they wanted to achieve over the next 4 weeks) and rate the goals according to their difficulties, importance, motivation, and more.
Group 2 – Participants were asked to write down their goals and rate them.
Group 3 – Participants were asked to follow Group 2 and also to formulate action commitments.
Group 4 – Participants were asked to follow Group 3 and also send their goals and action commitments to a supportive friend.
Group 5 – Participants were asked to follow Group 4 and also send a weekly progress report to a supportive friend.
Well, guess what happened after the end of the study after four weeks?
As you can see, the first group of participants who were simply asked to think about their goals, only about 43% of them achieved their goals.
But for group 2, those who were asked to write down their goals, about 61% of them achieved their goals.
What’s worth taking note of is group 5 participants, where 76% of them accomplished their goals.
From the study, Dr. Gail Matthews came to 3 conclusions:
1. The positive effect of accountability was supported: those who sent weekly progress reports to their friend accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals, wrote their goals, formulated action commitments, or sent those action commitments to a friend.
2. There was support for the role of public commitment: those who sent their commitments to a friend accomplished significantly more than those who wrote action commitments or did not write their goals.
3. The positive effect of written goals was supported: Those who wrote their goals accomplished significantly more than those who did not write their goals.
In short, there are three essential factors that will greatly influence the outcome of your goals.
And to set and achieve your goals, according to the research done by Dr. Gail Matthews, you’re going to need these three factors…
- Write Down Your Goals
- Create Action Commitments
- Hold Yourself Accountable
Hence, let us take a look at each of these factors and learn how you can make good use of them to help you reach your goals in a faster and surer way.
Write down your goals
The first thing you want to do to increase your probability of achieving your goals is to write them down.
Writing down your goals improves your chances of reaching them. This is common sense. Why?
Well, when you write down something, you are reminding yourself of what you want. Plus, the act of writing down your goals shows that you are committed to them.
Think about it, if you don’t care about your goals, will you bother to write them down?
Do you know that Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert comic strip, wrote in his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, that he wrote down his goal 15 times a day?
He wrote, “I, Scott Adams, will become a syndicated cartoonist.” And after going through some setbacks and rejections, and through some lucky breaks and coincidences, Scott Adams became the most syndicated cartoonist. He achieved his goal and become a successful cartoonist.
Therefore, the answer is clear. Write down your goals every day.
In other words, practice daily goal setting. You want to remind yourself of your goals and what you want to accomplish every day.
That’s why people who write down their goals tend to have a higher percentage to accomplish their targets.
Here’s an additional resource to help: The Importance of Daily Goal Setting and How to Do It Right
Create action commitments
Now, the second factor that will determine the achievement of your goals is action commitment. As you learned from the study from Dr. Gail Matthews, participants who write down their action commitments tend to follow through their plans and put themselves into action mode.
Logically speaking, you can’t just write down your goals and hope that things are going to happen magically.
No, goal setting is not a magic lamp. If you are serious about achieving your goals, you must create a plan and make action commitments to progress forward.
In short, you need to list down your actions plan. You must know what to do to create progress and reach your goals. You can’t leave things up to chances.
Thus, list down your action commitments.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to lose weight and get back in shape. So, your action commitments can be something like:
- I will pack a healthy lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday next week instead of eating out.
- I will have healthy spirulina shakes as breakfast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday next week.
- I will run 10KM at 8 AM this Saturday and Sunday.
- I will workout in the gym for an hour on Tuesday and Thursday after work next week.
As you can see, these are solid, clear, and actionable steps that you can execute.
Once you list down your action commitments, things become crystal clear. You know what to do to progress toward your goals.
That’s why having an actionable plan is important. You don’t want to just write down your goals and then do nothing about them.
Come up with a plan. Having a plan is much better than having no plan at all.
And when you know what you do, you become proactive. You make things happen. You don’t have to wait for things to happen. Create your action commitments and make your goals a reality now.
Create the accountability
Apparently, it isn’t easy to stick to your plan. Most people will procrastinate and delay their action commitments because they lack accountability.
This is why in Dr. Gail Matthews’ study, the group 5 participants who were required to send a progress report to an accountability partner tend to have the highest percentage in reaching their goals.
And you have to do the same – get an accountability partner.
You want to have someone to monitor your progress. You see, when it comes to achieving your personal goals, you are the only one that is going to hold yourself accountable.
Usually, that isn’t going to work well because there will always be distractions and roadblocks (excuses) that prevent you from taking action and sticking to your plan.
This is why getting an accountability partner cures all.
When you know someone is watching you, you will feel the pressure and tend to be more committed to following through.
Therefore, get yourself an accountability partner. And then commit to your partner that you are going to send a weekly progress report to him or her.
Now, getting an accountability partner doesn’t need to be complicated. You just need to get someone willing to support you and encourage you to make progress.
Once you have a partner to keep you accountable, you will make sure you do as you have committed. That’s how you create results and achieve your goals.
I hope you liked the content about steps how to achieve your goals?
If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments!
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