We just bust the myth about written goals.

Discover the truth about writing down your goals.

A future self development guru

A future self development guru

We are not going to make many friends in the “industry” with this post but we care about YOUR results more. You can visit many “influencers” and self-development “gurus” online to discover the huge amount of offers on journals and need for written goals. These often overpriced but pretty and unique books are sold at a premium price and huge profit margins.

Many of the people that buy the books then eagerly use the books and journals to make some initial progress and then stop writing. Over time they also give up on their goals and feel guilty for a lack of success. They will then risk looking at the journal or book as the reason for the lack of their success instead of holding themselves accountable.

Of course, you will find highly motivated people buying these books, filling in every space and smashing their goals. They become advocates for writing goals and often cited as examples of the reasons why written goals is a needed step towards success.

We live in an increasingly electronic world for good reason. So why the unique need to not only write down your goals but ensure they are put into a specific designed book or journal? Well, the answer is mixed, with genuine intent to help those that will use them and provide an extra profit line for a business!

Reviewing goals

Reviewing goals

JAMSO has a radical position from within this industry but a more common sense position once you stand out of the marketing fluff. You see, written goals are fine but not an absolute requirement. Writing goals into a specific journal will work for some people but not everyone. – Ask yourself first do you use such formats already or is it attractive because it is PART of the change you are seeking in your life.



What happens when goals are not written?

  • You forget the full details.

  • You can lie to yourself what your goal actually is.

  • Easier to become distracted.

  • End up changing your goal.

  • Lack of accountability.

  • Attain more than would have happened if the goal was so specific.

What happens when your goals are written?

  • You risk losing the list.

  • The goals become “cast in stone”.

  • You already feel that you have started.

  • Clarity of the actual goal can be referred to later.

Here is what the research says, and says didn’t happen!

Never conducted the infamous study

Never conducted the infamous study

First of all, let’s get two often cited piece of research that never happened! The Hard Business School 1953 study and the 1979 Yale study. The various urban legends of these none existent studies are supposed to follow students who wrote their results and then were followed up several years later. – It’s a myth, it never happened.

So what does that mean for the content shared by Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, and Zig Ziglar and if I recall correctly Michael Hyatt also referred to it for a while? Once the myth became known as a myth we start to see the above study’s replaced with reference to on by Dr. Gail Matthews a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California.

She engaged with 267 participants and found that people with written goals have 42% more chance (yes you read that correctly, only 42%) to achieve them, and this is what is often quoted most. However, this only tells PART of the story.

The actual results of the study showed that the more active you are in goal setting and keeping yourself accountable then the higher the chances of your success. So in short, it’s not just about writing down goals.

Extra Note:

The study has not to our knowledge been replicated several times with any sustained success. So, please ensure that any studies you accept have sufficient peer review and repeatability metrics to validate them.

Another misused part of the study that is often woven into these myths is the “medical research that handwritten goals improve success.” Well, there is only a connection between memory recall for learning purposes and not actual goal achievement. Read the article from Medical Daily that describes a couple of studies with their comments and observations.

The importance of personal experiences

If it works for you then keep writing them

If it works for you then keep writing them

Your personal experience matters. If you are a natural note taker then written goals might make more sense. If however, you note things electronically instead then continue. For a person that does not use a lot of written notes then maybe written goals will not help as much. – It boils down to the fact that not 100% of people fit into only the 42% of people that improved their success!

If you wish to try it then fine, however, please put the money you would have spent on an expensive branded journal or book into a cause that you with support or towards an actionable step for your goals i.e. towards your pension, running shoes, holiday, dream car, expensive meal, study course.

Alternatives to written goals.

I certainly do not advocate the need for written goals. Here is a list of alternatives to written goals that are also applied and used by many different people and part of the goal setting mix applied at JAMSO.

1.    Vision boards.

2.    Memory and imagination.

3.    Taking firm positive action daily in everything you do.

4.    Audible messages and voice-activated notes.

5.    Electronic apps or software.

6.    Social media platforms.

7.    Video recordings of your goals or aspired levels.

8.    Measure key areas of your life and plot your status over time.

9.    Be part of a wider team and community cultural expectations.


A moon shot visual

A moon shot visual

Writing down your goals is not the deal breaker for success. Action and persistence are however needed. Sure, when combined they can take you a position of advantage however these improvements only works for a minority percentage of people.

We suggest that you first understand your personality type and type of goal. From that start point, you may find having written goals in some areas of your life an advantage and help. For other areas simply measuring your progress will offer enough incentive. For example, a To Do list is good to help a person prioritize their day and generate a sense of achievement. By plotting the number of calories or exercise in a day will help manage your health better.

Let us know if you have always used written goals as part of your personal strategy and what experiences you have had with them by sending a post on social media.