Do you have a “bucket list”? Do you have career objectives? Life goals? Are they written down…on paper? If not, they should be. If you want your goals to be met–to have actual success–you have to write them down.
I’ll admit, I haven’t written any goals in a year. Sure, I’ve got lists and short-term plans jotted on my board, but I don’t have an updated list of long-term goals on paper. After a night talking about “bucket lists” with some friends, I thought, “I don’t actually have a list.” We all talked, in a general way, of large things we’d like to see or do in our lives. None of us had an actual paper we could hand over to someone like Jack Nicholson. Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly what I “said” was on my list!! How can I climb Mt. Kilimanjaro if I can’t even remember that it’s my goal? How will I ever feel I’ve achieved my goal if it changes all the time?
In a study done by psychology professor, Dr. Gail Matthews, people who write down and share their goals are “33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.” The study also notes the importance of sharing your goals with a friend, and making weekly updates, in order to make your goals come to fruition.
Here are even more reasons you should commit your goals to writing–if you need more reasons:
Clarity: Writing down goals makes them clear and specific. It is easier to visualize and feel connected to goals when they are specific. Saying you “want to go on vacation” is not the same as writing down, “I want to spend a week in Hawaii, at an all-inclusive resort.” You become more invested in a goal with which you can connect and picture in your mind. When you can clearly picture yourself sipping Mai-Tai’s, in your Hawaiian shirt, you will be more motivated than if you just remembered, suddenly, “Oh, yeah. I want to work on going on a vacation sometime.”
Action: Writing is an action. You are already starting your path to achieving your goals by taking the action of writing it down. The next step is reviewing them regularly (every week), which further motivates you to actually work on the goals! Writing and reviewing is two action steps towards making your goal happen. What’s your third?
Focus: Writing a goal down helps you avoid distractions which would prevent you form fulfilling your goals. It’s easy to get side-tracked if you have only a general idea of your goal, rather than something concrete that you can refer to when you need to stay focused. As with our vacation example, an opportunity might come along for you to go to some conference or spend money on a new TV. Without having a clear picture of the specific vacation you want, without regular reminders that you are working towards it, it is too easy and tempting to spend that time or money on something else.
Encouragement: On days when you don’t feel like you have the energy to move forward, looking at your list of goals will encourage you to push through. Sometimes, you need to be reminded of why you are working so hard or what you are working towards. Your list can be the push you need. The more specific, more able to see and feel your goal, the more motivating your list can be.
Make your list tonight! Make it an activity with your partner or your friend. As with planning for retirement, it is important for your partner in life to know what you have in mind. Setting goals together is a fantastic way to get to know more about each other, grow together, and keep each other on the right path.