Power of Writing Down Goals

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I had the fortunate opportunity to attend a speaker event for Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power of Clique Media Group aka WhoWhatWear, moderated by Sophia Rossi of HelloGiggles, to promote their upcoming book Career Code.  One of the many insightful things the duo talked about was setting goals.  

Powers talked about how she kept a journal and at the beginning of each year, she would write down goals, personal or professional, that she wanted to accomplish that year.  She would then analyze how she would achieve those goals.  Every few weeks, she would go back and look at the goals she had written down and see if she had made any progress in reaching those goals.

Why does writing down goals become such a powerful tool to success then?  According to Cialdini, it is all about commitment and consistency.

We humans have an internal need to be consistent (and appear to be) with what we have already done.  Once we have carried out the action, we are faced with personal and interpersonal pressure to behave consistently with that commitment.  Fail to do so may cause you to look like an inconsistent person, which is a highly undesirable personality trait.  The personal and interpersonal pressure causes us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decisions.  Because of this consistency drive, it can compel us to do something we ordinarily would not do.

A simple example is being asked to look after a stranger’s stuff while they are away.  Researchers conducted a study where an accomplice of their research team would randomly put down their beach stuff within five feet of a stranger.  In the control condition, the accomplice would walk away and a thief, also a researcher, would come and steal the person’s stuff.  Out of twenty people, only four strangers confronted the thief when the accomplice did not ask strangers to look after her stuff.  When the accomplice did ask strangers to look after her stuff and the thief came along, nineteen out of twenty people confronted the thief.

Where to Start

Using the concepts behind consistency and commitment, I present four factors that can increase the effectiveness of your initial commitment:

  1. Express an action.  In this case, writing down your goals.  By doing so, you are adjusting your attitudes, behaviors, and values to be consistent with what you have written down.  There is that internal pressure to bring your self-image aligned with the written goals and that external pressure on how others see you as a consistent person.  In other words, you live up to what you have written down.
  2. Express the action publicly.  Written goals can be easily made public, especially in our digital age.  Making your goals public influence you to maintain that position to be viewed as a consistent person.  Post your goals in a place where you can visually see it every single day.  It becomes a reminder to be committed to achieving your goals.  Share it with your friends and family.  They can act as your support system to cheer you on on your journey and remind you to be consistent with what you have written down.
  3. Engage in an action that requires some effort.  With the goals written down and publicly announced, actually start working towards the them.  Through your pain, sweat, tears, and stress, you start to internally persuade yourself this is worth it.  It heightens your commitment to achieve your goals.  If you have a big goal written down, do take baby steps to achieve it; it makes it more attainable and the results are just as rewarding.
  4. View commitment as voluntary unenforced.  This is the most important of the four factors.  You need to own what you have committed to do, accept inner responsibility when you have perceived you have acted a certain way that is not due to outside pressure.  In other words, if there is a large reward for achieving your goal, you can use the reward as a motivation, but you won’t be able to accept inner responsibility for the acts.

Hope you have a better understanding on why writing down goals is such a power tool.  Comment below on how you achieve your goals and stick to it.  Now get writing!

2 thoughts on “Power of Writing Down Goals

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