Everyone dreams of a better future. Some of those dreams are more commonplace, like getting a better job; while others are bigger challenges, such as creating something innovative that will change the world or writing a bestselling book. I believe everyone should dream big. Unfortunately, for some people, achieving those dreams feels impossible from the beginning, and they never see them become reality. Have you ever wondered why some people are able to achieve their wildest dreams, while others never seem to make it past the first step?
Experts Write Down Their Goals – and a Plan for Achieving Them
What if the difference were as simple as writing your goals down? It’s been popular advice for a number of years. As is the way of the Internet, a fictional study concerning the Harvard class of 1979 was used for a long time as an example of how writing down goals could help increase an individual’s ability to achieve success. According to this nonexistent study, the Harvard graduates who had taken the time to write down their goals were earning a significantly greater income ten years later than their classmates who had not written down their goals, and several times the income of classmates who had no goals at all at graduation. While this study has been found not to exist, writing down goals for long-term success is still considered a valid exercise – and there is actual legitimate research to prove it.
According to this study, individuals who each week wrote down their goals for the month were much more likely to accomplish those goals than individuals who were simply instructed to meditate on their goals for a brief period of time at the beginning of the study. However, the study also revealed something else interesting: individuals who wrote down their goals were even more likely to succeed if they also created an action plan (that is, a plan for making their goals reality), shared their action plan with a friend, and regularly checked in with that friend to give a report on their progress since they had started working toward their goals.
Creating innovation goals, therefore, should be handled like any other goal in your life: write it down!
Written Goals Provide Clarity of Purpose
Written goals not only take on a heavier weight in your own mind — after all, why would you write something down if you weren’t serious about it? — they also give you something to refer back to: a guidepost that will help you determine the things that are truly important in your life. A recent blog post by Michael Hyatt, former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, suggests that your written goals should become the filter through which you gauge every opportunity that comes before you. According to Hyatt, the more successful you become, the more opportunities you will have to let pass you by. Deciding which things to pass on can be a real challenge – but it’s less of a challenge if you already have a clear indicator of success or failure right there in front of you. If the opportunity doesn’t contribute to one of those goals, it’s probably not the right one for you: it’s just that simple.
Writing down your goals clarifies your vision and your purpose. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t possibly know how to get there. On the other hand, if you have a written “road map” that gives you an idea of where you’re headed in five or ten years, you can start to piece together what that will look like in the short term.
For example, suppose that you’ve always wanted to see your name in print. You have a wonderful idea for a book, and you’ve even sat down to type out a page or two here and there, but you’ve never gone anywhere with it. What would your plan for the next several months look like if writing that book left the category of “dream” and became a goal that you were focused on achieving?
It might start by committing to writing at least one thousand words every day. That’s not an earth-shattering change in your life. That first thousand words will hardly even look like it’s enough to save: only around two pages in a Microsoft Word document. Over the course of a month, however, those two pages become sixty; and suddenly, over the course of several months or even a year or two, you’ll find that your dream of writing a book has become a reality.
Of course, writing the book is only the first step. There’s still editing, and finding an agent, and seeking a publisher, and marketing: all of those are steps along the path to your ultimate goal. Looking at them as a whole can make them seem overwhelming; and where you are now, on what could be Day One of the new plan for your life, it may seem as though you’ll never get there. The trick is realizing that you aren’t starting on Day One Hundred. You’re starting with the first step: a small, manageable piece of your goal.
That’s the other thing that writing down your goals and the action plan for completing them allows you to accomplish: it gives you the opportunity to celebrate small victories. In the example above, did you write your thousand words every day for a week? Finish your first chapter? Make contact with an agent who is interested in helping you market your project? All of these things are victories along the path – and they’re well worth celebrating. It’s not just about the big picture or the end goals; it’s about all of the little steps along the way. After all, sometimes the journey is just as important as the final destination.
Writing down your goals is, in many ways, the first step on a longer journey. Seeing them in writing – ideally in the past tense, as though you have already accomplished them – gives them weight and power in your life. Store your list of goals somewhere you’ll look at it regularly, and be prepared for the changes that are coming in your life. They might surprise you!
Listen to this weeks show: How To Achieve Your Innovation Goals S11 Ep11