Career & Finance / Fulfillment

Research Shows 5 Effective Steps To Achieve Your Goals

“Writing a book is one of those things that I hope I could do someday,” shares a friend.

“So what’s stopping you?” I asked.

“Lack of time mostly,” he confessed. “There are weekends when I do have some free time, but then I find myself just staring on a blank page for hours.”

“I guess that’s one of the reasons why you can’t write that book,” I replied. “It lacks priority, as you only work on it when you have nothing else to do.”

My friend nodded in agreement.

“When you really want something, you don’t just think and dream about it,” I continued. “You plan, turn it into a goal, and commit the time.”

The idea of writing a book came to me back in 2007, but I slowly dismissed it when blogging took most of my time.

Interestingly, I announced in a blog post back in 2012 that one of my goals for that year was to finally write that book – which you now know, I failed to do.

Almost two years passed, and it was only in February 2014, when I actually committed to becoming an author.

Four months after, in June 2014, I finally published my first book.

And then last week, after I received an email from a reader asking if I have plans of writing a second book, I suddenly decided to make a new commitment to write and finish one by June 2015.

Admittedly, this is a really challenging goal because I plan to write the second book from scratch – that means there will be no republished blog articles there.

Plus, the six-month deadline will definitely require commitment and focus as my 2015 schedule is already starting to fill up with seminars, workshops, events and speaking engagements.

Fortunately, I have discovered a good strategy that will help me achieve this goal.

It’s a 5-step strategy validated by research, that I have applied before and found really effective when it comes to turning any dream into reality.

Step 1: Think about your goal. Analyze your resources.
Step 2: Write your goal on paper.
Step 3: Write an action plan to achieve that goal.
Step 4: Share that goal to a friend, who will do commitment checks.
Step 5: Send that friend weekly progress reports.

By common sense, the steps are rational and effective. But does it really work?

The answer is yes, according to Dr. Gail Matthews from Dominican University California, who conducted a study about this.

In her experiment, she recruited 149 participants from various countries and disciplines to work on completing a project that they’ve been long meaning to finish.

Some of the projects submitted were selling their house, implementing a strategic business plan, learning a new skill, writing a book, and many others.

After those goals were finalized, Dr. Matthews randomly divided them into five groups:

  • Group 1 would simply do Step 1 above – think about their goal.
  • Group 2 would do Steps 1 and 2 – think about and write their goal.
  • Group 3 did Steps 1-3 – think and write their goal, plus write an action plan.
  • Group 4 did Steps 1-4 – thinking, writing and sharing their goal to a friend.
  • Group 5 had to do all the steps – which includes weekly progress reports

Below is the result of the experiment:


As you can see, Group 5, who did all the steps, had the most number of participants who achieved their goal.

Meanwhile, Group 1, who simply thought about their goals, had the least number of successful people.

Interestingly, it shows that writing an action plan had a detrimental effect (Group 3). More people were able to reach their goal when they just simply wrote them (Group 2).

Personally, I think that’s because creating an action plan can overwhelm a person. When you see all the tasks that you need to do, procrastination will more likely kick in as your brain will try to avoid the “painful” work.

However, when you do one step further share your goal with a friend as what Group 4 did – the “pain” of disappointing someone close to you will be worse, that’s why you’ll have a stronger motivation to execute your plan.

Lastly, by submitting weekly reports, you’ll more likely to take action and make progress, or else again – you’ll feel the “pain” of disappointing a friend.

No matter what your goals are – be it to lose weight, save money, learn how to invest, start a business, write a book – just remember to follow the five steps above and your chance for success will be much higher.

Goals Research Summary. Gail Matthews, Ph.D., Dominican University

About the Contributor

Fitz Gerard Villafuerte, RFP is a civil engineer who decided to quit the corporate world back in 2003 to pursue entrepreneurship. His blog, Ready To Be Rich, has won several awards including the Best Business and Finance Blog at the Philippine Blog Awards. He has also been recognized by Moneysense Magazine as among the Top 12 Most Influential People in Personal Finance in the Philippines. He is a Registered Financial Planner and a resource speaker for corporate and socio-civic organizations in the country where actively promotes entrepreneurship and financial literacy. The article above was originally posted on his blog.

See all of Fitz Villafuerte's posts →

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