Get Your Goals
It’s the beginning of the year and you can’t read a newspaper, magazine or watch a morning talk show without hearing about New Year’s Resolutions and goals. Why do they work? Why don’t they work? How do you set them? What worked for this person or that? Do I keep them in my head or do I have to write them down? Most importantly, what is going to make the goals you set become the goals you achieved?
Let’s review what we’ve heard about goals:
Most goals that are set are never reached.
That there was some study at an Ivy League university that is evidence we should write them down
If you do set a goal you want to reach, make sure it’s a SMART goal.
First, the bad news. Most of the goals that are set are actually not achieved. They become goals that are set over and over, and eventually given up on because we just can’t take repeated attempts that end in failure. I personally believe goals that are not achieved are goals that are not set and attended to properly. It’s not the goal that doesn’t work or isn’t possible, success or failure lies in the goal-setters ownership and stewardship over their goal.
Next, the interesting news. Research has revealed that there was never a goal study that revealed that written goals yielded way better results. Even Tony Robbins tells the story of the Harvard Class of 1979 Harvard (or was it the Yale Class of 1953?) in Personal Power I & II: … “the 3% that wrote their goals down achieved more than the other 97% combined!” This oft-told story is actually urban legend, but wait! Before you feel like you’re off the hook and don’t need to write down your goals, read on.
Psychology Professor Dr. Gail Matthews’ curiosity was piqued when she saw an article in Fast Company citing just that study and upon discovering there never really was a study, decided to do her own. You can read about it, but I’ll cite the “what you need to know” here:
Matthews recruited 267 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States and overseas for a study on how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and accountability for those actions. Participants ranged in age from 23 to 72 and represented a wide spectrum of backgrounds.
Participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups.
Group 1 was asked to simply think about the business-related goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week block and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success).
Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same dimensions as given to Group 1.
Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal.
Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.
Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.
Broadly categorized, participants’ goals included completing a project, increasing income, increasing productivity, improving organization, enhancing performance/achievement, enhancing life balance, reducing work anxiety, and learning a new skill. Specific goals ranged from writing a chapter of a book to listing and selling a house.
Of the original 267 participants, 149 completed the study. These participants were asked to rate their progress and the degree to which they had accomplished their goals.
At the end of the study, the individuals in Group 1 only accomplished 43 percent of their stated goals. Those in Group 4 accomplished 64 percent of their stated goals, while those in Group 5 were the most successful, with an average 76 percent of their goals accomplished.
“My study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals,” Matthews said.
Here’s what I take away: Write down your goals. Create a plan that includes benchmarks and timelines. Write down why you’re committed to achieving your goals. Share your goals with those who will encourage you and hold you accountable and give them a status update every single week.
Here’s what I’ll add: Review your goals every.single.day.
Coach’s Call: The only thing standing in between you and your goals is you and how you treat those goals.
“What gets attention, gets accomplished.”
Cool things to ensure your success…