Goal Setting Series: Part 3- Write Your Goals-The Why

“The reason we don’t set goals is that we’re afraid. We’re afraid of saying a goal out loud, even to ourselves, and certainly afraid of writing it down. We’re afraid of trying to achieve a goal and failing. And, surprisingly, we’re afraid of reaching our goals, because reaching them means our lives will change, and change is often at the center of our fear. “

Seth Godin

We all know that writing something makes it easily remembered. In this post I gathered for you some resources to convince you that writing your goals is very important for achieving them.

In Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt shares the research done by Professor Gail Mathews who conducted a study that confirmed the power of writing down our goals.  

“She tracked 267 professionals from several different over 5 weeks by dividing them into five groups.  men and women from all over the world, and from all walks of life, including entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, artists, lawyers and bankers. 

She divided the participants into groups, according to who wrote down their goals and dreams, and who didn’t..

Matthews discovered that the simple act of writing one’s goals boosted achievement by 42%. “

Who of us wouldn’t like more chances of goals achievement? Writing them does that.”

But why is this the case? 

Let’s talk about writing longhand and what scientific studies tell us:  

Study after study shows you will remember things better when you write them down. Typically, subjects for these types of studies are students taking notes in class.  

“Mueller and Oppenheimer (who conducted this study) postulate that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning.  Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture.  Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.  Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.  By contrast, when typing students can easily produce a written record of the lecture without processing its meaning, as faster typing speeds allow students to transcribe a lecture word for word without devoting much thought to the content. “

and this study:

“Writing things down happens on two levels: external storage and encoding. External storage is easy to explain: you’re storing the information contained in your goal in a location (e.g. a piece of paper) that is very easy to access and review at any time. You could post that paper in your office, on your refrigerator, etc. It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to know you will remember something much better if you’re staring at a visual cue (aka reminder) every single day. 

But there’s another deeper phenomenon happening: encoding. Encoding is the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and, in turn, what gets discarded. Writing improves that encoding process. In other words, when you write it down it has a much greater chance of being remembered. 

Neuropsychologists have identified the “generation effect” which basically says individuals demonstrate better memory for material they’ve generated themselves than for material they’ve merely read. It’s a nice edge to have and, when you write down your goal, you get to access the “generation effect” twice: first, when you generate the goal (create a picture in your mind), and second, when you write it down because you’re essentially reprocessing or regenerating that image. You have to rethink your mental picture, put it on the paper, place objects, scale them, think about their spatial relations, draw facial expressions, etc. There’s a lot of cognitive processing taking place right there.”

And Finally, once more in “Your Best Year Ever” , Hyatt makes a compelling case to go ahead and write our goals due to the following reasons:

1. It forces you to clarify what you want. Clarity is a precondition for writing.

2. Writing down goals helps you overcome resistance.

3. It motivates you to take action.

4. It filters other opportunities. Establishing your priorities up front equips you to intentionally avoid what some call “shiny object syndrome.”  

5. It enables you to see—and celebrate—your progress. Written goals can serve like mile markers on a highway. They enable you to see how far you have come and how far you need to go. They also provide an opportunity for celebration when you attain them.  

Ready to write your goals? Dedicate a notebook for your goals and start now. This doesn’t have to be perfect, make a mess now.

Next post, you will learn how exactly to write our goals in a way that helps you achieve them.

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 9 of my podcast:

Goal Setting Series: Part 3- Write Your Goals-The Why

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