The Argument For Writing Down Your Goals

by Megan Grant

When you set a goal for yourself, you'll do just about anything to make it a reality. You obsess over it, plan for it, map out how you'll get there. But there's one thing you absolutely cannot forget to do, and research wholeheartedly agrees: writing down your goals is nonnegotiable, because doing so will yield you better results.

Thinking about your goals is great, but it doesn't put them into action like writing them down does. When you write down your goals, you're committing to them in a whole new way, making them concrete and real. The science and art of writing down your goals has been studied over and over again, and it's widely agreed that people who write down their goals fair better in achieving them. In one study, Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor, studied 267 people from all over the world and all walks of life, dividing them into two groups based on people who wrote down their goals and those who didn't. She found that the people who wrote down their goals on a regular basis were 42 percent likelier to achieve them. The results are even better when you share your goals with a friend who believes in your abilities.

In yet another study from University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, across two years, 700 students did a short writing exercise that had them focus on important moments in their lives that helped shaped who they are. They then used these memories to help create a path toward achieving a goal. For many of these students, the goals were to stay in school and complete their work.

In the end, researchers found that the students who completed the writing exercise finished more course credit and were likelier to have stayed in school, compared to students who had not done the writing exercising. Furthermore, after two years, differences in performance related to ethnicity and gender had almost disappeared, meaning that the achievement gap had narrowed.

These aren't the only findings of this kind; and it's become clear over the years that goal-setting is nothing without putting them on paper. But why is this act of writing down your dreams so powerful, providing consistently better results for the dreamer?

It's possible that the inner workings of your brain have a lot to do with it. Our brain consists of a left hemisphere and right hemisphere, which are connected by the corpus callosum — the bundle of fibers that allows electrical signals to travel back and forth.

These signals move into the fluid around our brains and travel up and down the spinal column, eventually communicating with every fiber and cell in our bodies — quite literally turning our thoughts into actions.

Here's what's especially important: the right hemisphere is the imaginative side, while the left is the literal side. If you only think about your goals, you're only really relying on the right hemisphere. By writing it down, however, you then involve the left hemisphere. With the two working together on the goal you've focused on, you bring your whole body in on it.

If this sounds confusing, don't let yourself get bogged down in the scientific details. You can also think of it like this: when you write down your goals, you tend to lay down a specific, focused plan — much more so than when you just think about something and analyze it in your mind. Writing down your goals forces you to hold yourself more accountable and demands results.

While science has found that writing down your goals indeed produces measured results, some of us don't need the science to know that it works. For many of us, myself included, writing down your dreams is about the law of attraction and the power of positivity.

You believe that you can achieve it, you act like it's just about within your grasp, and you dominate your goals. Ask, and you shall receive. While it's not everyone's cup of tea, it's an attitude and way of life that, truthfully, just comes down to having a positive outlook and grabbing life by the you-know-what.

Whether you're most convinced by science, you're more into New Age philosophy or spirituality, or you're simply looking for a better way to achieve your goals, one thing is for certain: Write. Them. Down.