The importance of having written goals

the importance of having written goals

Today we will look at the importance of having written goals and, more importantly, how to actually achieve them. Do you set your goals periodically? Do you write them down? Do you review them regularly? Or do you, like most people, only think about them at the New Year’s resolutions period? Is there any value of doing any of the above?

These are the questions I want to touch on today. I will also show you a definitive and time-tested way of setting and achieving your main goal (it’s not what you think). I will then also show you how I keep score on a daily basis (you will love it).

Do you have a big goal for the next 5-10 years? Or even for the next 12 months? If you do, great. Congratulate yourself. If you don’t, why not?

Have you written it down in a journal and on your goal card?

If you have, you need to seriously congratulate yourself. Many of the most successful people swear by this process (and no, I’m not referring to the often quoted Harvard study that turned out to be just an urban myth). Why is any of this important you might ask?

There is an often referenced quote from Thomas Carlyle that says it succinctly:

“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”

And it tends to be very true and self-evident in our lives if you think about it. It’s like going on a trip to somewhere. If you don’t decide what your destination is, you can end up anywhere (and most likely it’s not going to be what you quietly hoped for).

The opposite is also true. If you have a clear goal, you are more likely to put some focus on it and move toward it. Or, as Earl Nightingale said:

“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going”.

The degree to which you are able to attain your goal is directly proportional to how much focus you put on it. In turn, the degree of your focus is related to how strongly you want it. In other words the passion and/or desire you have for your goal comes into it.

You may not be very passionate about brushing your teeth regularly, but the desire of keeping them healthy and clean from acids and bacteria is so strong that you just do it.

On the other hand. Your desire to make money online (as an example) might be so strong that it will propel you to explore the online income stream opportunities. Once you find one that looks promising, then set a goal and start working on it.

Tony Robbins is quoted as saying:

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”

If you want a better job, better health, better relationship, more money, wishing for it is not going to cut it. It takes a firm goal. Like Tony says, setting goals is the first step. But it is an essential step. Without a goal, you will keep on going around the circle, just like a ship without a ruder.

Brian Tracy says that of all the skills, goal setting is the most important skill to learn and to perfect. He even went so far as to say that goal setting should be taught at schools and that there should be university degrees in goal setting.

Bob Proctor has been teaching his students to write down their goals for many years now.

He himself has a great story to tell. Back in the 1960s, Bob was earning $4k per year and was $6k in debt. One day he wrote on his goal card that he was going to have in possession $25k. The date was set about ten year in the future. Here’s what happened next.

Bob read the goal card several times each day. As he says, “a funny thing happened”: Bob earned $175k in the next 12 months and a $1 million the following year. That was a considerable sum of money back then, in fact it’s still a life-changing amount for most people even today.

As Napoleon Hill (author of Think and Grow Rich) used to say, if you tell yourself a lie often enough, you will start believing it after a while. And I think this is one of the biggest hints as to why written goals (and goal cards in particular) can work so well.


A book you should read (and then read again and again)

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is a book that everyone who want to succeed in life should read and follow. According to many successful people, it should be read over and over again. In fact that’s exactly what Bob Proctor has been doing since 1961.

First published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is still regarded as the most successful book of all time in the space of success and self-development.

However, I want to turn your attention to a specific goal-setting technique that Napoleon Hill presented in the book, as six steps to achievement of any definite goal. In fact I regard it to be THE secret in Think and Grow Rich.

Some people get fascinated by this formula, but most do nothing with it. They dismiss it because “it couldn’t be that simple”. Some (a much smaller group), apply the formula (or a formula like it) quietly in their daily lives and attain goals perceived by the masses to be unattainable.

Hill said quite clearly that the sixth step is the most important one. You must mentally SEE yourself there, you must FEEL yourself there, and you must put yourself in that mental state often. He also stated in one of his lectures that you must back up your goal, your desire, with a feeling, with emotion. Otherwise it’s not going to do you any good.


Professor Gail Matthews PhD and her study on goal setting

As Gail Matthews, Professor of Psychology at Dominican University of California, was unable to find any evidence that the abovementioned Harvard study actually existed, she decided to conduct her own study on goal setting.

goal setting study

What she has found was that indeed having written goals seems to give a significant advantage.

The other two factors that she found of significance were commitment and accountability.

The participants that made themselves accountable to a supportive friend, achieved even better results that those who didn’t.


Working backwards from your long term goal

So, you have written your major goal on a goal card and you read it several times each day.

In the meantime, you need to also take action.

That’s where breaking the goal into daily, weekly and monthly milestones and activities is really useful.

To illustrate it with a very simple example, if your yearly goal was to earn $120k, then your monthly milestone would become $10k per month. Then you would break it into a weekly and daily activity that is required for you to be performing in order to get there.

Your daily activity might be to write 500 words, or to reach out to 5 other bloggers, or something else. Or, it may be more appropriate to have a weekly goal, such as publish a post. It’s probably best to have both. That is a weekly goal and a daily goal.

It’s up to you how you want to break it down. You might decide that Monday – Wednesday you write 500 word each day, Thursday – Friday are your outreach days and the weekend is free.

I have my overall online income-related goal set for the next five years. I have also worked backward to see what I need to achieve online this year in order to be on track. In my case it is to earn $1,000 per month from my blog by the end of the year.

Next, I reverse engineered it to work out what needs to happen on a monthly basis: I need to publish a minimum of two posts per month.

Next, how does it translate to a weekly activity? At least four times a week I need to either: research a good long tail keyword I can rank for easily, or write 500 words.

This may not seem like a lot, but I want to enjoy the process and be around for the long term. Besides, I still have my full time job which takes a good chunk of time out of my day. It also brings me a nice income, so my online activity is just a side gig at the moment.

I didn’t break my weekly goal into a daily activity, as I can choose any 4 days of the week to do my writing and keyword research.

Another point I want to make is that breaking down your long-term goals into monthly/weekly/daily activity tasks is more of an art than a science, unless you have some concrete personal data from the past to rely on. It may not be very accurate at first. Don’t over think it. You can always adjust it later.


Keeping score

Setting goals is just half of the battle. You also need to keep score of your daily/weekly activities if you want to stay on track.

the green dot technique

For this purpose I use a very simple system: a wall calendar and a bunch of green and red dot stickers. I won’t go into it here, as I have devoted a whole post to it. I call it the green dot technique. I think you will like it. I also hope you will find it as useful as I have.


Sticking to your goal

So what happens when I work on my goal for the whole year and I haven’t reached my yearly goal? Do I adjust it? Do I abandon it and start working on a new goal? No, neither of those. Unfortunately this is what the majority of people would do. They will try something for a few weeks (not even close to a year) and if it “doesn’t work” they move on to something else. In the online marketing circles this is known as a shiny object syndrome.

Few thousand years ago, Confucius said something profound and timeless:

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”

Napoleon Hill said that you must have a goal and a plan how to achieve it. He also said, if the plan does not work out, you adjust it. In other words, adjust the plan, not the goal.

I heard one successful entrepreneur state it this way: “set your goals in stone, set your plans in sand”. In other words, be flexible with your plans, but don’t give up on your goals.

If I haven’t achieved my yearly goal this year, I will simply re-evaluate my action steps and adjust them for the next year.

I’ll leave you with this inspiring quote by Mark Victor Hansen:

“You control your future, your destiny. What you think about comes about. By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands – your own.”

If you don’t want to write down all of your goals, at least make sure you write down the important ones.

Until next time. Stay focused.

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