In 1953 a team of researchers interviewed Yale’s graduating seniors, asking them whether they had written down the specific goals that they wanted to achieve in life. Twenty years later the researchers tracked down the same cohort and found that the 3% of people who had specific goals all those years before had accumulated more personal wealth than the other 97% of their classmates combined. The study is often used to illustrate the power of focus, and I’d say you’ve probably heard of it, or something similar, several times over the years.
Sometimes this study is quoted as a myth, but you know what? Who cares? I certainly don’t. Because my personal experience in experimenting with goalsetting off and on over the years, is that it works. And, having worked with hundreds of different individuals over the past decade or so I can tell you just from simple observation that the ones who talk about what they want to achieve constantly – to the point where you want to muzzle them on occasion – are the ones who tend to get there.
Something I find really amazing in my own life is that even when I don’t set structured goals just the act of writing about what I want – or think I want – seems to be incredibly powerful. It’s in my nature to write; I can’t go more than a few weeks max without doing so, and inevitably I write about myself a lot. Particularly in my personal journal. Most of it’s non-sensical rambling, and (on reflection) a disturbing amount of recording of whether I’m tired or not – harks back to insomnia days, I guess.
But I do write lists of goals – often quite repetitively – or things I either want to attain or want to be quite a bit.
wanna hear something freaky?
A couple years back I was tidying the spare room and came across an old journal. It had a list of all my goals on it from 2 years earlier. This freaked me out because the list was over 50 points long, I’d completely forgotten about writing it and yet most of those things had come true in my life. Right down to the really really specific stuff.
Now that’s a little bit freaky, don’t you think?
Or is it?
Goalsetting and law of attraction gurus would say it’s normal. That you get what you think about. Thoughts create actions, create habits, create reality and a destiny. Or something to that effect.
take the goalsetting challenge
One of the most fantastic rules on productivity and success is the rule of having only 3 important projects on the go at a time. I learnt this from the book The Power of Less. This book has kinda changed my life. It’s not the only one to have done so; I am a big reader! But it’s certainly made me calmer, more deliberate. More successful in focusing on the stuff that really matters, that’s for sure. And it’s taught me some useful ‘rules’ on goalsetting.
Now, like me, you may think that the idea of living by rules is not necessarily a pleasing one, but these are really just points of common sense. And I’d certainly rather live by common sense than continue to try and be or do everything. Wouldn’t you? It’s exhausting, and it doesn’t work! I don’t believe we can have it all, or at least not in the sense that many women seem to approach it, and I think it’s ridiculous how we as driven women have conditioned ourselves to believe we always need to be doing more, and better, and faster. Sometimes we need less!
how to do less, and yet still end up with more
When it comes to goalsetting, here is what works for me:
- Long lists that go on forever are great just to get the mental juices flowing about what you want. I highly recommend doing them. But you can’t then actively plan and break down each and every one of a 50-long-list of tasks.
- One way I really like is to take those big lists and think about how you could then categorise the big areas of your life. Try and keep it to 6-8 categroies. Mine would be – relationships, money, career, body, passion, relaxation. Write the categories on a seperate page after looking at your big list (if you’ve done one; you don’t have to).
- In each category write down 3-5 things you’d like to bring into your life in the coming year.
- Next, commit to yourself – when do you want this stuff by? Be specific!
- Mark out on a yearly planner such as these ones (which are free, but I find them so worthwhile I got the paid version) what you will work on for each month of the year.
- At this point, it’s important to stop and look at what you’ve done so far. If you had to be ruthless about it, which 3 tasks or projects would you choose as being Most Important to achieve over the next 6-12 months? For me, right now, it’s grow Woman Incredible to 1000 readers, launch the membership program, and finish my new book (one of them, anyway). The rule here is simple, and it works: you may not add on a new Top 3 project until you’ve completed ALL of the current ones.
- The next stage is to break your yearly goals from the before-last point down to monthly, weekly, daily tasks. As you do this, you should focus on your Top 3. Make sure they always get first place.
- Finally, take action! But not in an ‘I’m going to try and do everything at once, and all in one week kind of way’. Use your monthly and weekly focus sheets to create a daily plan that highlights your 3-5 ‘Most Important Tasks’. Generally, these should help get you closer to your 3 big things for the year. If you spend even 10-20 minutes on each of your Top 3 every day, you will be blown away at how much you’ll achieve within a few weeks, let alone a year!
And the best part? Even if you don’t actually follow through and look at your plans or goals daily (and I certainly don’t do it daily!) the act of having written it all down and really thought about it will have those goals seeping into your brain and I guarantee you’ll be able to look back at the end of 12 months and know that you’re further ahead than you would have been without thinking about it.
It’s all too easy to let a day or week or year pass by, isn’t it? Make up your mind that 2011 really is going to be your year, and watch as it becomes true.
Enjoy the ride! And remember –
Life is Now. Press Play.