The Power of Writing Down your Goals and Aspirations

Every new year we try to propose a set of new challenges for ourselves which we hope to accomplish throughout the year. How do you usually commit to these goals? Do you make a list, write them down on a board or poster you walk by on the daily, or keep a mental note? Goal setting is supposed to help you get a clear perspective of what it is you wish to achieve, but have you ever thought if writing them down on the regular versus not writing them down can affect the level at which you actually achieve your goals?

Dr. Gails Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, conducted a research with 267 men and women of distinct backgrounds and places in the world. She divided the participants into two groups according to who wrote down their goals and who didn't. The results of this research showed that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and aspirations simply by writing them down on a regular basis. 

Now, you may be wondering how can simply writing down your goals have such a huge impact on whether you accomplish them or not. This phenomenon basically comes down to two things: your external storage of information and encoding on your brain.

External storage is when you store the material that contains your goal in a place that is easy to access and see at anytime, like the refrigerator or your bathroom mirror. If you see something on the daily like a reminder note stuck to your office computer, chances are you're going to remember to execute. 

Encoding is the biological approach your brain takes when we perceive something and transports it all the way to the brain's hippocampus where they're analyzed. From this point, decisions are made whether to store this information in our long-term memory or discard it. Writing enhances this encoding process by improving the chances of remembering what you wrote down. 

There are many studies that have proved that when you write things down your chances of remembering are higher. Neuropsychologists have also determined that the mind goes into a "generation effect" which means when an individual generates material in their mind for themselves. When you write things down, your brain touches this generation effect twice. First, when you create a mental picture of your goal and second, when you write it down as a means to reprocess or regenerate that image. 

In essence, writing things down like your goals helps your mind be more efficient. Writing down your goals not only helps you remember but it can also help your mind automatically focus on what's important and organize your thoughts. As you jot down your goals, you are able to visualize and create a clear understanding of what it is you are trying to achieve.