Many people, in many places, teach how to reach goals. Among the practices taught, writing goals down is one of the most repeated instructions. There is ample evidence that written goals are attained more often than goals not written down, and this fact is all that is given to explain why to write goals down. However, very few people attempt to explain why writing goals down works, so let us investigate that aspect of attaining goals.
What Is Written Down
When you are told to write your goals down, you need to be clear on what is being asked of you. What is it that you are supposed to write down? The most common instruction is to write down the SMART properties of your goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, As If Now, Relevant, and Timely.
A Specific goal is one that you clearly understand and which can be clearly explained to another; the more details you have about the goal, the more specific the goal. A Measurable goal is one that you can decide quickly and definitively whether you have attained the goal or not; while a path of progress is not required, it can be very helpful in making a goal measurable. A "As If Now" goal is one you feel you have already attained; the more you visualize the goal as being achieved, the more this "As If Now" quality is present. A Relevant goal is one congruent with your beliefs and principles. Finally, a Timely goal. is one with a deadline.
So writing a goal down means to the work at and write out, to the best of your ability, each of these five qualities of the goal. The format you use is personal; what is important is that you write them down.
Writing Involves Senses
Writing something down involves several senses, which means that several physical parts of the body are engaged. By engaging the hands, eyes, and maybe the ears, you are providing activity which can be remembered at a physical level, which improves the mental memory strength. You can take advantage of this strength through strong visualization, since an imagined event has the same impact on the nerves and muscles as a real event.
A logical, or even emotional thought, affects the memory from a single direction, the mind. When the body is involved through action, whether that action is real or imagined, the memory is affected from a second direction, which increases the probability that the goal will be retained in memory.
Writing Demands Clarity
By writing the goal down, you are forcing yourself to make the goal clear enough to put into words. By using words, you are making the concepts involved clear to you; if you want to really take advantage of this characteristic of writing, imagine that someone else, someone you do not even know, is reading and explaining your words.
Many people have a good idea, but they cannot express that idea in words. By going through the effort to get the words, you make the ambiguous aspects specific, and the unclear characteristics become known. Again, to take full advantage of this technique, have someone else read what you have written to check your clarity.
Writing is Permanent
By writing your goal down, you are making the goal a (somewhat) permanent part of your existence. You are giving a level of commitment to that goal. You have staked a claim. You may change your mind later on, but for right now you have made a commitment. This permanency makes the goal more powerful and a stronger part of your existence. That means you are more likely to give the time, energy, and effort needed to reach the goal.
For these reasons, and more, a written goal is much more likely to be achieved that a goal that is merely stated to someone else. Take advantage of this fact and make your goals more likely to be achieved, and thus you will lead a more successful life.
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