Writing down your learning goals increases the odds you will accomplish them

“The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.”
Lee Iococca

Do write down your goals? Share them with others? Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, says you are 21 percent more likely to achieve your goals by writing them down and sharing them with a friend or colleague.

[Errata: Originally, this post said “42 percent more likely.” Among other sources, Michael Hyatt had written, “Professor Gail Matthews of Dominican University of California did her own study not long ago that confirmed the power of writing down our goals. The study showed a significant improvement in reaching goals when they were written. In fact, just by writing down your goals you are 42 percent more likely to achieve them.”

One of the folks reading the Aha! beta raised an eyebrow. The 42% seemed fishy. He called Professor Matthew, who explained she had been misquoted.]

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Dominican reports that participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups. The research study reports that:

•    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). This group accomplished 43% of their goals.

•    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.  This group accomplished 64% of their goals.

•    Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend. This group accomplished 76% of their goals.

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.

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