The Power of WRITTEN Goals

When I begin to coach people on a personal one-on-one basis I always ask them if they have written down their goals and objectives for the upcoming production quarter or year. To be clear, I am not asking them if they simply forwarded all of the compulsory projections to their boss or hierarchy, I’m asking them if they wrote down THEIR professional goals and objectives, hopefully inside of an annual business or marketing plan.


It is surprising how few have actually done this given the fact that research has proven, that people who commit their goals to paper accomplish a lot more than those who don’t. In fact, I recently read about a study conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews. She studied a pool of people (a control group) who didn’t write their goals down and another group who did. The study determined that if you write your goals down and don’t do anything else, that increases the likelihood of your achieving that goal by 42 percent!

In addition, it’s proven that people who set goals are happier, they live longer and they make more money. And what’s more surprising is that most of my students KNOW this, but still haven’t committed their goals and objectives to the written word. This omission is all about human nature I guess. Like eating right and exercising, we often don’t take action on the things that we know are good for us.

Let’s dedicate the balance of this article to the discussion of some practical ways you can commit goals and objectives to paper in an effective manner.

Write Them Down on Paper

Okay, duh. But I have to start here, because so few people actually do this. There’s a huge power in just writing the goals down. It’s about intention. By writing it down you are physically moving toward bringing that goal into reality.

There have been many times in my career where I’ve written down a small list of goals, then gone back and looked at the list. It’s amazing how many of those things came to pass even though I didn’t have a sophisticated plan or make a lot of conscious effort in trying to achieve them. Just the fact that I wrote them down launched me toward them, kind of like the Dr. Gail Matthews study I referenced above.

Don’t mistake the fact that your subconscious mind is looking for ways to make the things you really desire happen. But, if you only THINK about them, they come into your mind and then they’re gone. It’s almost as if your mind says, “Hey, pal, if you don’t expend the effort to write ‘em down, I’m not going to take them seriously.”

And here’s what I’ll challenge you to do—some time today—write them out in longhand first. That’s right. Go OLD SCHOOL. Sit down, pour yourself a cup of coffee, grab a yellow pad and a pen and write them down. There’s some real value in that. If you do that you’re automatically more engaged, more of your senses are utilized, and therefore your subconscious mind will take the process more seriously. In addition, you’ll be more focused on them and you’ll remember your goals more vividly. You will subconsciously drift towards your goals by doing this.

Then after you write them out longhand, begin to integrate them into your annual business plan.

Limit The Volume of Your Goals

I hate to use the word “limit,” in any conversation about achievement, but if you’re going to be effective in the area of goal setting, you have to keep your professional goals few in number.

Now, if you’re going to create a big personal bucket list, well…that’s different. By all means, build that list as big as you want. However, in terms of career and professional goals, I’m recommending no more than 5 -7. If you have many more than that, it’s extremely hard to stay focused.

Simply stated, if you establish too many goals, you can easily defeat the purpose of the practice. If you have a lot of goals, you will feel energized at first, then as you lose focus, you’ll begin to feel overwhelmed and you’ll shut down.

Choose the most essential 5 – 7 professional goals and get those done.

NOW Focus on A Smaller Number of Goals

After you draft your 5 – 7 professional goals, then prioritize them and determine which 3 of those will push all of the others. In other words, Ask, “What 1, 2 or 3 of these goals are most essential and could make everything else I want to accomplish easier?”

Those are the goals you really need to focus on NOW.

Don’t ADD goals until you accomplish one or two

It’s easy to start off with a focused set of goals and then begin to add objectives to the list. Don’t do that! Play a game with yourself. You only have the right to add another goal if you accomplish one on the written list. It’s like a reward system. You accomplish one, and then you get to add another one.

The other reason it’s important to not let your professional list of goals grow too big is that psychologists tell us that you can’t focus on more than about 7 – 10 things at one time. I am assuming you have some important personal goals as well, so if you add them to your personal goals and there are more than 10, you are screwed.

You have to stick to the 5 – 7 professional goal guideline.

Be VERY Specific

Your goals have to identify exactly what it is you want to accomplish with as much specificity as you can possibly muster. Be careful that you don’t confuse an aspiration with a goal. An aspiration sounds like this: “I sure would like to make more money this year.” There is nothing specific about that. Your mind doesn’t know how to process that. You have no way of knowing whether you are winning or losing, so reducing all goals as close to some metric as possible helps. Your goal has to be measurable, and to be measurable it has to be specific. A specific goal sounds like this: “I want to earn a minimum of $100,000 dollars in commission this year.”

Obviously you can’t manage what you can’t measure, so you want a goal that’s quantifiable. You want to absolutely know when you have achieved it so you can check it off of your list.

Make Sure your Goals Are Realistic

There is a fine line here. I want you to be careful and take counsel if you need. It is important to select goals that stretch you a little bit out of your comfort zone, but not ones so unachievable that they can’t be implemented and reached.

I’m a golfer. In fact, I am a past teaching member of the PGA of America. But that was many, many moons ago. I don’t play that often and I rarely practice. I still break 80 most times out, I even shot 69 in competition last year, but if I established a goal to qualify for the Senior PGA Tour for the 2017 season, that would be unrealistic. That would not be an actionable goal, especially given that my handicap hovers around a 9 or 10. However, if I set a goal of reducing my handicap in half, to let’s say a 5 over the next year and I was willing to put in the hours, that would be 100% realistic and 100% achievable. That would be actionable and achievable.

You don’t want to set goals that are going to be too easy for you to achieve, because then it’s not going to have the same meaning or significance. Push yourself hard, but be realistic

Attach A Completion TIME to Each Goal

Establish a completion date for each of your goals. This is another big difference between an aspiration and a goal. If it doesn’t have a date, it’s not a goal; it’s just an aspiration.

The other huge benefit is that a deadline creates urgency and drives action and that urgency and action can change everything. What I see a lot of salespeople and entrepreneurs do is forget about the completion dates they attached to their goals during the middle of their year. They let themselves off the hook for the majority of the year and then hit the panic button right at the end of the year.

You must review your goals and objectives frequently. Actually, this is absolutely the number-one reason why people don’t achieve their goals. I know…life happens, we get busy and stuff. But it is a huge mistake to write your goals down and then ignore them. If you ignore them they lose their importance to you and you lose focus. And then, all of the shiny objects take over—everything else grabs your attention and pulls you.

One great idea is to have your 5 – 7 professional goals printed out, framed, and sitting on your desk, or your bathroom mirror, or your fridge—wherever you are going to see them every day. You might even do what one of my coaching clients did and create a screensaver out of your goals.

Here’s are a couple of key questions I want you to ask: Do I review my goals at least once a week? Do I set aside (hardwire) calendar time each week (10 minutes) to review my goals? I want you to review them quickly just to get re-oriented with them. In addition, always ask the question:

“What actions can I take this week that will propel me toward the accomplishment of my goals?”

The answer to this last question will help you mold your my daily task list and action plan for the week.

Be Certain that Your Goals are Relevant Personally

What I mean by this is that if your goals aren’t YOUR GOALS—if they aren’t personally meaningful and exciting to you, then your subconscious mind won’t push you towards them. I have even seen people accept somebody else’s external goals for themselves and then watched them self-sabotage.

Bottom line; don’t get tangled up in what others want for you. Your goals have to come from what you want inside for your professional and personal life.

Share Your Goals Selectively

I don’t want you to share your goals with the world. Some people get all jacked up and want to run out and do that. That is not advisable because it can trick your brain. After you announce to the world what you wish to accomplish your subconscious mind may think that those things have already been accomplished. Psychologists tell us that you get the same emotional satisfaction from talking about a goal that you do from having actually accomplished it. By sharing it with everybody you meet, indiscrimanently, you’re almost rewarding yourself in a way.

I’m also not suggesting you keep your goals to yourself. What I’d like you to do is to share them selectively. Here are a few rules that apply to this.

Don’t share them with people who are going to cut you down. Unfortunately, we all have a few people in our life who are negative and will diminish the goal, laugh at it, or just not support us. So I want you to be quite selective in whom you share your goals with. I want it to be with people who will value them, appreciate them and encourage you in the process. It would also be nice if those people would be willing to hold you accountable.

Bottom line, it’s important to have somebody you feel safe sharing those goals with and these people can be friends, business partners, external coaches, or a mastermind or accountability group.

So, the whole point to this article is to get you to first think about the small handful of professional goals that will help you win at your game and then to actually write them down.

It takes less time than you think. You could probably complete this task in one evening. Doing this will pay huge dividends.

To be in a business without clearly defined goals is like trying to guide your ship to a safe destination without a compass, GPS or even a rudder. How in the world do you know where you’re going?

A lot of people you and I both know end up at places in their personal and professional lives they didn’t choose because they simply didn’t have clearly defined goals.

They drift, and that’s a shame.

If you really want to achieve the things that matter—get to the end of your life and not have any regrets, being able to say, “Look at what I was able to accomplish,” then you need to establish the right goals and commit them to paper, hopefully also integrate them inside of a written business plan.

This is where it all starts and it is really very easy to do.

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Joe Buzzello is a nationally recognized expert on direct selling and sales leadership. He has built legacy sales teams and experienced unprecedented success in individual and business-to-business markets as well as the network marketing industry. Joe has held executive level positions for Fortune 500 companies, but he has never strayed far from the art and science of selling, which he loves. In early 2014, Joe began writing, speaking, and coaching through his platform, and The CAP Equation©.


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