In a study conducted at the Dominican University of Southern California, Professor Gail Matthews recruited 150 volunteers from all walks of life (from their early 20s to early 70s) to take part in a study of goal setting.
The participants were randomly divided into five groups, each of which was asked to think about business-related goals they would like to accomplish within a month.
Group 1 (the control group) was asked to do nothing else, but each of the other four groups was asked to do something more than the previous one towards realizing their goals. For example: groups 2-5 had to write all their goals down on paper. Then groups 3-5 had to add action commitments to each (such as, “I will do so and so…”), while groups 4-5 had to also tell a friend about their goals. Finally group 5 was asked to send this friend a weekly progress report.
A month later all groups were asked to report on the percentage of goals that they had achieved, and when the results came in it turned out that by attaining three quarters of all goals set, group 5 was by far and away the most successful. This was followed by Groups 4 and 2, with Group 1 performing the worst at less than half of all goals achieved, as follows:
- Group 1 – 43% █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █
- Group 2 – 61% █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █
- Group 3 – 51% █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █
- Group 4 – 64% █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █
- Group 5 – 76% █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █ █
What this study revealed was that simply by setting goals you will achieve them a little under half of the time, which is not bad – but neither is it all that good. However, simply by writing your goals down it turns out that you increase your chances of success to over half. What’s more, if you include your friends in your goal-setting you stand to increase the likelihood of these goals succeeding to over three-quarters of the time – every three out of four goals you choose will be attained.
In another study conducted at Yale University in 1953, seniors graduating that year were asked a number of questions, one of which was whether they had set goals for the future that they had written down. Only about three percent of the respondents claimed that they did. In 1973 the participants were once again interviewed and it was reported that the three percent of them that wrote down their goals were now wealthier than the other 97 percent combined.
So why not write down your main goals today? It only takes a moment and could pay off big time. For example, assume (like most of us) you have rough goals of being happy, healthy and wealthy. In which case you might put down the following:
- I will be a happier person – every day I am happier than the last.
- I will be fitter, stronger and healthier as each day passes.
- My finances will steadily improve as I work hard towards increasing my income.
You don’t have to write down these exact goals. In fact, writing your own goals in your own words is more effective. But choose some goals anyway, write them down on a sheet of paper, and then sign your signature underneath, because this is a contract with yourself.
Now keep that paper and refer to it regularly. Pin it to the wall if you like and repeat the goals out loud from time to time. As each day passes and you repeat these goals they become affirmations, and your desire and commitment towards attaining them will strengthen.
And remember to share your goals with your friends if appropriate too (and keep them updated), as that will further increase your results.