Perhaps by now you have heard about the research study that was conducted at Harvard or Yale University on written goals? You know the one. Where so many people of a certain graduating class had written goals, and a certain percentage of the class didn’t have any written goals. And after several years, they followed back up with those graduates to see what they had achieved.
What they found was that the 3% of students who had written goals, clearly defined, accomplished 10 times more than the students who didn’t have written goals.
Well, just so you know, that research was never substantiated. Because it never existed.
As a person who has studied goals and speaks on goals a lot to others. I have to admit, I had actually referenced this fictional research myself.
Luckily, a professor of Research by Dominican University of California psychology, Dr. Gail Matthews actually conducted some research that supported this urban legend.
A total of 267 participants were recruited from businesses, organizations, and business networking groups. However, only 149 participants completed the study. The final participants ranged in age from 23 to 72, with 37 males and 112 females.
Participants came from the United States, Belgium, England, India, Australia and Japan and included a variety of entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, artists, attorneys, bankers, marketers, human services providers, managers, vice presidents, directors of non-profits, etc.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of 5 conditions (groups):
- Group 1- Unwritten Goal;
- Group 2- Written Goal;
- Group 3- Written Goal & Action Commitments;
- Group 4- Written Goal, Action Commitments to a Friend;
- Group 5- Written Goal, Action Commitments & Progress Reports to a Friend.
Participants in Group 1 were simply asked to think about their goals (what they wanted to accomplish over the next 4 weeks) and then asked to rate that goal on the following dimensions: Difficulty, Importance, the extent to which they had the Skills & Resources to accomplish the goal, their Commitment and Motivation to the goal, whether or not they had Pursued this goal before and if so their Prior Success.
Participants in Groups 2-5 were asked to write (type into the online survey) their goals and then to rate their goals on the same dimensions.
Group 3 was also asked to formulate action commitments.
Group 4 was asked to formulate action commitments and send their goals and action commitments to a supportive friend.
Group 5 was asked to formulate action commitments and send their goals, action commitments and weekly progress reports to a supportive friend.
At the end of four weeks the participant were asked to rate their performance.
The results showed:
Types of goals: Participants pursued a variety of goals (in order of frequency reported) completing a project, increasing income, increasing productivity, getting organized, enhancing performance/achievement, enhancing life balance, reducing work anxiety and learning a new skill. Examples of “completing a project” included writing a chapter of a book, updating a website, listing and selling a house, completing a strategic plan, securing a contract, hiring employees and preventing a hostile take-over.
Which Group achieved the most? Group 5 achieved significantly more than all the other groups; Group 4 achieved significantly more than Groups 3 and 1; Group 2 achieved significantly more than Group 1.
76% of the participants in group 5 achieved their stated goals and only 43% of the participants in Group 1.
And groups 2-5 had a 50% higher chance of accomplishing their stated goals than did group 1.
So what do you need to do to achieve more in your life? Very simply, do what the participants did in Group 5. Write down your goals, and create an accountability system with someone other than yourself.
If you want to learn more about how to do this. Please contact me at email@example.com
To your success and your future.
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