Goals More Obtainable When Written

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April 17, 2015
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Not that it should come as a surprise, but a recent study by Dominican University of California professor Gail Matthews found that people who wrote their goals and shared the with an accountability partner or publicly were more likely to accomplish those goals.

If the study sounds vaguely familiar, that because both Harvard and Yale conducted a similar study over 20 years ago in which it was concluded that writing goals down produced 10 times more income. However, it was recently discovered that the study was an “urban legend” and was never conducted. Or at least neither university can produce findings to support the study.

“The widespread mention of this non-existent study in business circles as well as the need for research into the techniques used by business coaches provided impetus for my current research, which was focused on how goal achievement is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions and being accountable for those actions,”  Matthews wrote in the research summary.

A total of 149 participants ranging from ages 23 to 72 completed the study. Participants came from the United States, Belgium, England, India, Australia and Japan and included a variety professionals from businesses, organizations, and business networking groups.

For four weeks participants were randomly assigned to one of five conditions. Participants in Group 1 were simply asked to think about their goals.  Groups 2 was asked to write (type into the online survey) their goals. Group 3 was also asked to write and formulate action commitments. Group 4 was asked to write, formulate action commitments and send their goals and action commitments to a supportive friend. Group 5 was asked to write, formulate action commitments and send their goals, action commitments and weekly progress reports to a supportive friend.

At the end of four weeks, Group 5 achieved significantly more than all the other groups. While all groups that required writing the goal achieved more than Group 1, who only had to think about their goals, the study provides empirical evidence for the positive effectiveness of accountability, commitment and writing down one’s goals.

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