Why should you write down your goals? This something I have been looking into for the past few years. I have even picked up a couple of books on this but they all end up a lot more woo than I thought they’d be. I think I keep looking for the science. There really don’t seem to be many hard facts out there about why it works. However, all of the woo people that talk about writing down your goals, see the proof. They see it with their clients and with themselves. It seems to work often enough that it’s worth paying a bit of attention to.
Let’s begin with what we’re doing here. By writing, I mean with a pen, with paper, and physically writing down your goals, not typing them. When you take that pen to paper, when you write down your goals by hand, there is power to it. It seems to heighten the chance that those goals will come to fruition.
Admittedly, I’ve done the workshops where you go and you write down your goals on a sheet of paper and then you put it in an envelope and address to yourself and give it to the person leading the workshop. And then one year later they mail it to you and you’re supposed to open it and look at it and be amazed that everything came true. And you’re like, Oh my goodness, how did that happen? I’ve done that. And yet…nothing has come true when I have done this in the past. So I’m not saying that it’s magic. I’m not saying that if you write down your goals, everything will happen.
But here’s what I do want to talk about and why you should consider trying this. When you take a pen to paper and write down what your goals are, there are a few things that are happening. First, you have to think enough about your goals to actually write them down. So you’re really focusing and thinking about it. You’re putting a lot of thought into it. And when you write that down on paper, you’re starting to set it into your brain and saying, I want this to happen. Or if you prefer to use the present tense, this is happening. If you write in the past tense, this happened. I have heard actually though, that if you write down your goals in the past tense, sometimes your brain then latches on and it’s like, great, I’ve done that. I don’t need to worry about that.
I write my goals in the present tense, let me use a current goal as an example. I am in the middle of editing my first book and it needs to be edited and then published. I would write: “It’s June and my first book is published and available for sale. And I have started writing my second book.” I’m writing it down in present tense. I’m writing that I’m in the middle of writing that second book, even though I have not started writing yet. I don’t want to say my second book has been published because then my brain will working on that third one. I like to be present tense so that my brain feels that we’re still needing to work on this.
You know how, when you’re in the shower or when you’re on a walk, all of a sudden, all of your problems start to be solved. And you’re like, where is a pen when I need it??? That’s what you’re doing. We’re planting these seeds so that when we’re in that rest time when our brain is not actively doing things, it’s solving these problems. It’s figuring out how to get them done.
The other side of this is that you need to write down your goals often and regularly. There is a sassy saying: What’s the difference doing a millionaire and a billionaire? Millionaires write their goals down once a day, billionaires write their goals down twice a day.” Get into that habit of writing down your goals twice a day. I keep my current big goal on a post-it note. It is stuck to the bottom of my monitor. You don’t even have to be that fancy. You can write it down each time on the back of a scrap of paper, or even keep a journal where you repeat it every time. You know, kind of like in The Shining: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Realistically though, that repetitive, constant reminder to yourself has a lot of power.
That daily repetition of writing down that goal helps you open yourself up to the opportunities that will get you there. Because you cannot write down your goal and then sit on your couch and expect it to magically happen. You have to start thinking about what are the things that you can do to get to that goal. That’s where that power of writing it down is. In your brain solving the problem of what the steps are that you have to take to get there. It might just be figuring out the first tiny thing that you can do today to get started. What is a small task that will help you get to that goal? And then tomorrow, what is the next thing? Those small actions will add up bigger than one grand thing that you do once in your life.
If you do something small every day, it will have a much bigger impact and get you to that goal than if you do a grand gesture occasionally. If it’s a big goal, If you want to earn a million dollars in a year. What’s the one thing you can do to earn $5 right now? What’s the one thing tomorrow that you can do to earn $10? Keep building on that, writing down those goals, thinking about getting to that final place, and every day, opening yourself up to what can I do today to move towards it. It will make it so that when the opportunity arises, you’re there and you’re waiting. So what are you waiting for? Write down that goal.