Writing Goals Down: The Key to Success?

What is the best way to ensure that your goals will succeed? How do you make yourself believe that you will accomplish your goals and have success, as well as feel accomplished? Is there a relationship between goal completion and satisfaction?

There is no doubt that setting goals makes life easier. If you want to get a promotion, what do you do? You take the time to think about what steps you must take. Maybe you need to finish your next assignment on time. Maybe you need to get to work on time, and be more optimistic. If you are trying to improve your health, maybe you will drink more water, eat a variety of foods, enjoy an active lifestyle, reduce stress, etc. Whatever your goals are, the key is to make a plan of action. But how do you 'make' this plan?

I personally love to write things down. I find that when I do this, I see an organized plan for what I have to do, what I need to accomplish, and where I am going. It also helps me look back and see what I have done, what I still need to do, and what I have succeeded in. Interestingly, there appears to be evidence that supports that writing out goals does indeed have an impact on overall life satisfaction, task completion, and even stress levels. In one study, writing out goals and accomplishments decreased people's negative thinking and low moods (http://www.cog.psy.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/papers/2013/Teismann_WritingAboutLifeGoals_JHealthPsychol(2013-e-pub).pdf - I recommend that you take the time to read this study, if interested. You can skip to the results section if you want the quick facts about the implications!). It also reduced cortisol levels - the 'stress' hormone that is released when we are stressed. This hormone also has negative effects on our bodies when released in excess, including depressed immunity, irregularities in hormone functioning, poor concentration, and more. Within just three days of writing out goals, participants felt happier, more confident, less stressed, and more optimistic about their lives.

What is the lesson here? Writing out goals and accomplishments really does seem to make a difference on our health and emotions, as well as the perspectives we take about our lives. Of course, this doesn't mean that if you don't write your goals out, you will be depressed and unsuccessful. It also does not mean that writing out goals and successes are the ONLY ways to be happy or satisfied. However, if you should take something away from this, it should be that looking at your life with a plan or with optimism can really change the way you live. Being positive and organized can help you become more successful and relaxed.

Writing things down provides you with a plan, but also with a reference on what you have to do, as well as what your next steps are. Then, when you are done, you can refer back to what you wrote down and see what you have accomplished - and this helps you feel good about yourself, which can improve your mood and confidence. If you haven't completed all you wrote down, looking back at it will help you see what you can improve the next time around, or to see whether or not your goals were realistic and doable. Does this mean you have to start writing everything down now to be successful and happy? No. But I will ask you one thing: the next time you have a lot of tasks to do in one day, or when you have a major project to accomplish, try writing the steps or tasks down on a piece of paper, on your phone, etc. Then, refer to your list during the task, as the day goes by and you complete the things to do, or after you are done what you needed to do. And let me know how this makes you feel to see what you have
accomplished, or to see your goals achieved. I guarantee it will make a difference. You will feel better about yourself, you will feel and become more productive, and you will be more enthusiastic and positive about life. Try it, and let me know what your thoughts and experiences are!

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