Writing vs Thinking Your Goals … Which Makes You More Successful?

How can you guarantee your students will be more successful than their peers? How can you guarantee this with a 10-minute activity? The answer is simple. You can start this year off right by doing one simple activity.


There is a significant increase in accomplishments when people write out their goals.

Writing down goals. Yes, the old fashioned way. Get out a pen and a piece of paper and have your students get all their dreams out. They can be short-term or long-term. They can be small or outrageous. Either way, it will make the world of difference for your students.

You may have heard of a famous ‘study’ on goal setting done on Harvard MBA students. The ‘study’ says that 3% of students that had written down goals had been 10 times more successful (in terms of money made) than 97% of their peers who had not written them down.

Unfortunately, it turns out this ‘study’ is an urban myth. However, talks of it did encourage researchers to do their own studies to try and confirm it.

A Dominican University PH.D., Gail Matthews, conducted a study on 159 professionals. The participants were male and female. They ranged in age from 23 to 72 years old. They came from countries across the world. And had a variety of jobs such as entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, artists, bankers, vice presidents and non-profit directors.

The participants were split up into 5 groups and each assigned a different task. Every group also had to rate the goal based on difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation to the goal, whether or not they had pursued this goal and if so their prior success.

The group tasks were assigned as follows:

  • Group 1: thought about their goals (to accomplish the next 4 weeks) and rated the goals
  • Group 2: wrote their goals out and rated the goals
  • Group 3: wrote their goals out, formulated action commitments and rated the goals
  • Group 4: wrote their goals out, formulated action commitments, sent their goals and action commitments to a friend, and rated the goals
  • Group 5: wrote their goals out, formulated action commitments, sent their goals and action commitments and a weekly progress report to a friend, and rated the goals

At the end of 4 weeks participants were asked to rate their progress and the degree to which they accomplished their goals.

Group 5 accomplished significantly more than all the other groups. Group 4 achieved significantly more than Group 3 and Group 1. Group 2 achieved significantly more than Group 1.

The mean achievement for Groups 2-5 was significantly higher than Group 1. Translation: writing down their goals made a tremendous difference!

If this study found that much success in just 4 weeks, it is feasible that the results from the Harvard study could be true. If the study were to gather results 20 years later (like the Harvard study claimed they did) there is a great possibility that your students could be 10 times more successful, just by writing goals down.

You can be the one to show them how to set goals! You can be the one they celebrate their success with.

Don’t know how to teach them this? Well SOAR® does! After all, the ‘S’ in SOAR® stands for set goals. We have mastered the method of goal setting and tracking. Our curriculum is built upon it.

To learn more about goal setting and the SOAR® Curriculum click here.

*(Source: Summary of Recent Goals Research, by Gail Matthews, Ph.D., Dominican University)


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