How To Improve The Odds Of Reaching Your Goals

Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time?

Write a book. Figure out a new career path. One that is much more satisfying. Or, learn a new skill, like playing the guitar.

You think about how great it would be to get there. But it’s easy to put it off. You take a step forward. Then shelve the idea. The day-to-day of life gets in the way. And then you pull it back out again.

Thinking about goals can be fun. Committing to goals can be scary.

What if you tell people and then you fail? Or change your mind? Or look stupid in the process?

It’s a lot easier to dream about them in the back of your mind.

But if you want to try. If you want to make progress. There a few key actions that are proven to make a profound difference.

One of them is accountability.

Research Shows The Power of Accountability

There was a study done a few years ago by Psychology Professor Dr. Gail Matthews. Her work focuses on goal achievement, and the best ways to get there.

She recruited 267 participants in a goal achievement study (149 completed the study.)

The groups were broken into:

Group 1: think about your goals

Group 2: write down your goals

Group 3: write down your goals & your action committments

Group 4: write down goals & action commitments and send them to a friend

Group 5: same as group 4 but also send weekly progress reports to a friend

The results? 43% of Group 1 participants were at least halfway to achieving their goal. But 76% of Group 5 were at least halfway to achieving their goal. The group that sent their written goals and actions to a friend. And then alsosent a weekly progress report. Group 5 achieved significantly more than any other group. To quote the study:

The positive effect of accountability was supported: those who sent weekly progress reports to their friend accomplished significantly more than those who had unwritten goals, wrote their goals, formulated action commitments or sent those action commitments to a friend.

It sounds so simple. But the act of sending a weekly progress report to one friend. Had a profound impact on the participants’ actions and therefore, results.

That Doesn’t Mean You Should Spread Your Goals All Over The Internet

Another popular research article came out a few years ago from Peter Gollwitzer et al. titled When Intentions Go Public. The basic conclusion was:

Identity-related behavioral intentions that had been noticed by other people were translated into action less intensively than those that had been ignored.

Basically, once people say their goals out loud and receive external praise for them. It gives them a premature sense of pride. So they don’t take as much action to achieve their goals.

That makes total sense if you think about it.

But announcing a goal to the world is different than sending a weekly progress report to one person.

A progress report that you assemble. Based upon goals that you have chosen. And actions you’ve laid out yourself. (Dr. Gollwitzer’s study focused on actions provided by the researchers.)

So How Does This Help Me?

There is a balance to strike here. I agree with others — don’t splash your goals all over social media. You’ll get a lot of encouragement, which can give you premature sense of accomplishment. But doesn’t actually help you achieve your goals.

Instead, find one person, or one group that can hold you to the task. A friend, a co-worker. Find a Mastermind. There are also websites that can connect you with someone to provide accountability.

Write down those goals. Measure and keep track of your progress. And keep updating one trusted person or group about your progress.

Knowing that you are accountable to someone outside of yourself. Can be a powerful psychological push to keep you going.

So the next time the think it would be easier not to do the thing. Or, that you don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll remember that your accountability partner is waiting for your report.

And that might be enough to get you over the hump. And one step closer to making that dream a reality.

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Denver, Colorado, United States

© 2019 Deb Knobelman, PhD.