According to studies, people who write down and set goals are more likely to achieve more than those who don’t. Which makes sense right? We can’t achieve goals that don’t exist and we often don’t notice all the things we do achieve day to day or year to year as we’re not tracking or appreciating them.
A group of students were about to graduate, and they were asked to set goals for themselves. Some didn’t set goals and some did without writing them down, but a small percentage in the group wrote down their goals. After many years this same group of students were interviewed and something very interesting was discovered! Those who set goals and never wrote them were earning twice as much as those who never set any goals, and those who set goals and wrote them down were earning 10 times as much as those who set goals but never wrote them down.
This can be applied to many areas in our lives, fitness, nutrition, careers. But writing goals can seem daunting to some, for fear of failing or not achieving them. Others find goals an anti-climax from spending time writing them down and not feeling satisfied when achieving them. So what is an effective way of writing and achieving goals to achieve success in any area you wish to apply this to? Here’s my guide, from personal experience, coaching, mentoring and observing my peers.
1. Determine whether you are a short term or long term goal setter. By this I mean do you work better to setting 3 or 5-year goals and having a vision in mind for the future or do you work better with more immediate goals, something in the next couple of weeks in a bitesize format? You can probably work this out by thinking about past goals or deadlines that you have set, what goals have you achieved? Has there been a time where you haven’t met the goals you’ve set? What motivates you to achieve something…how do you measure your achievement? I worked this out for myself when discussing goals, Statements like “I’m going to save for a house deposit” or “I’ll do a marathon next year” seem exciting but in reality feel too far off me to achieve, it always seems too far away in terms of time so I don’t take any action steps, therefore don’t get any closer to achieving the goal. Pretty pointless for me. If I had a goal like “tomorrow I will do a 5k run” I’ll have it in the bag, because it’s immediate and I feel energised to meet this goal. So working out when goals haven’t worked for you and determining why can be really useful. You have to use this to your advantage – don’t set yourself up for failure if one way doesn’t work for you!
2. You now know whether to set long or short term goals..so the next step is to write them down. It doesn’t matter whether its a 5-year goal or a 5-day goal or anything in between. Get it written down. Physically putting pen to paper is a powerful message and reminder. Brainstorm or daydream about your goals, what would really make you happy? What does the ideal situation look like? Let your mind wander then come back to the paper and write some ideas that motivate you.
3. Attach emotion. What is the point of any goal if you don’t feel anything when you achieve this? So take a fitness goal …”Lose 5 pounds in the next 2 weeks” or a long term “Increase fitness levels by next Summer” What will it feel like when you achieve this? How would you feel if you didn’t? How amazing will it feel to tick off your list as completed? When you feel this emotion you are much more likely to achieve. This principle can be related to any area in your life.
4. Write the goal down as if it has already happened, sometimes having a deadline can seem impossible to reach or just feels like a chore on your growing ‘to do’ list. Instead of “I’ll stop having a bad diet” write “My nutrition is going to plan, I have a balanced diet and feel energetic” firstly this sparks the emotion I just mentioned. It feels better to read, sparking that “I CAN DO THIS” attitude rather than “Urgh I’ve got another thing to do”. Secondly, its a positive outlook to your goal, if we focus on what we aren’t doing, subconsciously we are thinking about it and tend to be drawn to doing it. It’s like when you played “spot the yellow car” as a child, Did you often find one? Yes because you were focussing on it. If you draw your attention to a lack of exercise, lack of savings, lack of energy etc you are noticing the negative, making it more apparent in your life. By focussing on what we DO want, how we WANT to feel, we are much more likely to take action to fulfil this. So turn your “I want to stop feeling anxious” to “I feel calm and content, I am in control” or “I need to lose 5% body fat” to “I want to have a healthy body fat percentage and feel healthier for doing so”
5. This is the most enjoyable part I find – write down your wins. You may have achieved your entire goal or you may have taken a step towards your goal, either way, notice it. By doing so we are sending powerful messages to our brains that we can achieve, we are on our way to accomplishing what we set out for, this makes any challenge or goal in the future more reasonable. You can look back at your wins, however big or small and know “I’ve done it before, I can easily do that again”.
To finish… a client and successful businessman told me “You only achieve your highest goal, never more” so if you say you want to lose 5kg, you will only lose 5kg as that’s the bar you’ve set, you won’t accidentally lose 8. So set your goals high but realistic, know that you are taking action steps towards it and push yourself because you are in control, you achieve what you set out to achieve.