05 Feb

A study of Harvard MBA candidates found that 3% had clear written goals and plans for accomplishing them, 13% had goals but had not put them down in writing and 84% had no goals when they were first entering the program. Ten year later the same students were re-interviewed. The 13% that had goals were making twice as much as the 84% with no goals but, even more astounding, the 3% who had committed their goals to writing were making 10x as much as the other 97% combined.

And yet less than 20% of people write down there goals and only about 20% of them review their goals on a regular basis. Here are four of the most common excuses for not writing out goals:

1.      I already have goals, I just don’t write them down.

Typically, what these people have aren’t really goals at all. They are non-specific thoughts like, “I want to be rich” or “I want to lose weight”.  They usually haven’t planned out the steps they need to achieve these goals and that just doesn’t work. As Elmer Hubbard put it, “A goal without a plan is just a dream”.

As I discussed in a previous blog, goals need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based. If you don’t have a clear plan, you will never achieve your dreams. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

2.      I don’t need goals. I’m doing just fine.

Well, the statistics above indicate that, while you might be doing fine without written goals, you could certainly be doing a lot better with them. If you are satisfied with where you are in life right now, I probably can’t convince you to change in order to do better. However, if you want to do better, be more successful, make more money or be happier; then writing down your goals, prioritizing them and making a step-by-step plan on how you are going to achieve them is the crucial first step towards realizing your dream.  As Albert Einstein said, “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things”.

3.      Goals don’t work. Life is too unpredictable.

In his book How to Be Totally Miserable, John Bytheway wrote, “If you’re trying to be miserable, it’s important you don’t have any goals. No school goals, personal goals, family goals. Your only objective each day should be to inhale and exhale for sixteen hours before you go to bed again. Don’t read anything informative, don’t listen to anything useful, don’t do anything productive. If you start achieving goals, you might start to feel a sense of excitement, then you might want to set another goal, and then your miserable mornings are through. To maintain your misery, the idea of crossing off your goals should never cross your mind.”

Life is far less unpredictable (and miserable) if you have a plan; a roadmap for success. If we have no goals and no plans for reaching those goals, then every obstacle or interruption sends us down a different path. With no goals, we wander aimlessly or, as Yogi Berra put it, If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” 

4.      I don’t know how to set goals

The good news is setting goals is a learnable skill. Just like you didn’t know how to ride a bike or drive a car once and had to learn how, you can learn how to set goals. If you could increase your chances of accomplishing something or your income ten-fold, wouldn’t that be a worthwhile skill to develop?

There are hundreds of good courses out there that teach you how to set goals and develop the plans to make those goals reality. Refer to my early blog here for some basic strategies. A quick Google search will net you dozens of good possibilities.

Robert Schuller once said, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”  I’m sure you have heard the Napoleon Hill quote, What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Properly designed written goals are the keys to making this happen.