What Happens to Your Life When You Write Goals Down

The idea of giving promises to oneself isn’t new. Most people do that. We vow to quit smoking, set a life goal, read more books, spend less time on Facebook showing jealousy to our friends’ success… You name it!

In the eye of psychology, such approach is more than justified.

We think of time as if it’s something geometrical: linearly or cyclically, any day becomes a pen marking off some sections. We choose a point to move. No matter if it’s New Year, birthday, or Monday – the wind of changes can start blowing anytime, making us feel the need to revise something.

And we give promises to ourselves.

The most common ones are easy to specify: they influence us indirectly, and that’s why we often forget or postpone them for later. Healthy food, jogging, or charity are significant by all means, but some people find coffee and cigarettes enough to function. As sad as it sounds.

It’s great to set goals, but it’s greater to keep your word and achieve them. For a better life, don’t plan to promise to start one day.

For a better life and your goals achievement, write them down.

“The more abstract your goal sounds, the more difficult it’s to hold.”

Do you know a theory about promises saying that every time you can’t live with new rules, you lose motivation but get a bad taste in the mouth?

Most goals don’t influence our life because they are too general. Despite the best answer to “Who do you want to become when grown up?” remains “A happy person,” it’s the worst motivation ever. The more abstract, plagiarized, or paraphrased your goal sounds, the more difficult it’s to hold: you’ll find its new senses over and over again, blaming yourself for failure to follow its boundless variants.

Eat better. Be kinder. Save more money. Our consciousness deludes all the time, so we shouldn’t leave it any trade space.

Instead of “save more money,” write down a clear plan a la “set apart $XXX monthly.” Instead of “eat better,” write “eat three carrots, spinach, and five apples weekly.” The trick is to avoid abstractions, dividing all goals into small and detailed tasks.

From my experience, I can recommend you this exercise:

Time 15 minutes and write down your all dreams with full concentration. It’s not easy to do. The first several minutes get out desired shoes of your subconsciousness, but wishes become more and more abstract by the end: “I want to be loved,” “I want my family to be healthy,” and so on.

After 15 minutes of writing do the following:

  • Divide your wishes into categories.
  • Attach priorities to each.
  • Make the most desirable one a goal.
  • Write it down as precisely as possible.

For example, write “My weight will be 55 kilos by June 10” instead of “I want to be slim.”

Think of the goal as if it’s your project: come up with a strategy, develop a habit, think of resources, and minimize risks. Write down each stage of this project step by step.

Besides writing down a step-by-step plan and setting time (day, week, and month) for each goal, make sure you launch new habits little by little. Sweeping changes look impressive but don’t motivate long while: soon, you’ll tire of a new schedule and come back to your oldy-moldy regime.

To develop a new habit, you should spend at least ten weeks for its regular repetition.

“It’s essential to understand why you need and want these changes. Are you ready to take responsibility for their realization?”

Here goes a life hack:

Underestimate yourself. It sounds provocative but means downgrading your goals number and quality. Works efficiently for do-or-die perfectionists who often plan more than can handle.

It doesn’t mean you should give up advantageous goals for something ordinary or needless: it’s more about planning your goals in good faith.

Planning is an individual thing, but most people think of it as something that “has to be done.” It’s okay to follow your friends or mentors but harmful to try operating their goals to your life because of jealousy or slavish imitation. It’s essential to understand why you need and want these changes. Are you ready to take responsibility for their realization?

“Whatever hard you may plan, remember that some goals are doomed to fail.”

From my experience, most guides on planning recommend telling others about your goals to make it harder to step back. But this strategy has pitfalls, either.

No one but you can make positive changes in your life, so don’t shoulder the responsibility to others and don’t associate your achievements with them. What do I mean?

Let’s say you decide to jog on Mondays. Don’t lead friends on going with you! As soon as their plans change, it appears more challenging for you to achieve the goal. Besides, their absence becomes your excuse for laziness.

Acclamation is great, while damnation will never be efficient motivation. Those setting small goals, they achieve more. And the more positive experience in goals achievement we experience, the more chances are we’ll have positive results in future.

Writing down clear goals do wonders to those making lists because it’s the profitable way to organize life. Maximum visualization and detalization of the process, as well as systematic positive changes, let you see results and stay motivated through thick and thin.

Whatever hard you may plan, remember that some goals are doomed to fail. And it’s okay.

Failures are a part of the process, and we shouldn’t be afraid of them. Get ready for some plans to bring eggs to a bad market and consider them nothing but minor obstacles you’ll overcome soon.

Sometimes our goals don’t lead to what we expected. Nevertheless, do not deprive yourself of a chance to take a loss. In fact, it’s a part of your invaluable experience, too.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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    We view time as a geometric concept, either linearly or cyclically, with each day acting as a pen to indicate certain portions of the period.

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