written goals…fact and fiction

For years, motivational speakers from Tony Robbins to Zig Ziglar touted that writing down your goals is the key to massive success in work and life.   Yet, the studies that started the whole buzz turned out to be completely fictitious. So does it work or not?

Have you heard about the Yale class of 1953?

As the legend goes, 3% of the graduates of that class wrote down their goals upon graduation. Twenty years later, a study supposedly found that this 3% out-earned the other 97% combined.

No wait…it wasn’t Yale ’53…it was Harvard ’79. And it wasn’t 3%…it was 5%.  The 5% of those Harvard ’79 graduates outperformed the remaining 95% combined.

There is a reason for the confusion.  In 1996, Fast Company discovered that these studies were completely fictitious!

In this article, Fast Company’s team almost comically traced the claims from Tony Robbins to Brian Tracy to Ziglar back to Tony Robbins. They finally went to the source, to the Yale 1953 class secretary and yearbook.  The result?  No such study was ever done.

Finally, someone actually did the study.

In 2007, Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California did a study of students who tracked goal achievement comparing groups who wrote down their goals to those who didn’t.

She found that writing down your goals contributed to a 42% increase in goal achievement. What’s more, she also found adding accountability works even better. Those who translated their goals into actions, made a commitment to a friend, and provided weekly progress reports increased goal achievement by 78%.  Find the study here.

Is a 78% increase in the probability of your success worth the effort?

Just don’t make the mistake that so many do…hinging all of your success entirely on goals.  Remember that goals are no replacement for purpose, and as always, remember that actions speak louder than goals.

Run hard!

QUESTION: Have you experienced a breakout success as a result of writing down your goals or getting an accountability partner? Please share your experience.