3 Steps to 10x your Goal Success Rate

Peeling a banana from the bottom up.

Using duct tape to open tough lids.

Putting bars of soap in clothing drawers to give undergarments etc. a pleasant smell.

I love a good hack–they increase productivity, and turn me into an efficient, well-oiled machine. The hacks we’re excited to share today relate to goal-setting. Specifically, how three simple acts can make you 10 times as likely to accomplish your goals and dreams.

First, let’s set the stage for goal-setting, and, count yourself warned, it’s not a pretty picture. According to a recent study, 92% of all New Year’s resolutions fail. While resolutions aren’t exactly goals, they’re close enough that this stat is alarming. What if only 8% of people who resolved to go to college actually enrolled? What if only 8% of businesses succeeded? That’s not a world we should want to live in.

On the flip side, let me give you a couple statistics that’ll drop your jaw to the floor, but in a good way: you immediately become 42% more likely to achieve your goals by simply writing them down on a regular basis. We’re not making this up; Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently studied the art and science of goal-setting, and found this to be true, from a sample of one hundred and forty-nine participants. Further, Dr. Matthews found that once you’ve documented your goal, sharing it with a friend and sending weekly progress reports makes you 77% likely to accomplish that goal.

While a limited data set of 149 participants probably wouldn’t pass any honorable statistician’s  sniff test, there are other similar studies floating around the internet that give credence to the notion that documenting your goals ups your chances of achieving them. A study supposedly done by Harvard business school in 1979 that measured students prior to graduation and then again 10 years down the road found that, before graduating:

  • 84% of the entire class had set no goals at all
  • 13% of the class had set written goals but had no concrete plans
  • 3% of the class had both written goals and concrete plans

10 years later, the 13% of the class that had set written goals, but had not created plans, were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had set no goals at all.

What’s even more shocking is that the 3% of the class that had both written goals and a plan were making ten times as much money as the remaining 97% of the class! Or so the myth goes; to this day, not even Harvard psychologists can find the studies in their archives.

Myth or no myth, statistically significant or not, the fact is that dreaming about your goals is one thing, turning them into reality is another.

But let’s back it up a minute. Before you jump ahead and start frantically scribbling down your goals (to breed dragons, own a house with several secret passages, rule the world, live like a dog, you name it), you need to make sure you’re setting a good goal.

We’re not talking “good” in the sense of good vs bad, because who are we to judge the nature of your goal, but in the sense of making it SMART:

  • Specific
    • What exactly do you want to achieve and how will you get there? The more specific you are, the greater the chance you’ll accomplish your goal. If losing 10 lbs or running a marathon is your goal, break down what it is you need to do for this to happen. Ask yourself the “what, where, how, when, with whom, why” questions.
  • Measurable
    • Make sure your goal is concrete. “Being happier” doesn’t cut it; “Not downing 700 bars of chocolate a night because you’re eating well-rounded meals and balanced snacks five days per week” is.
  • Attainable
    • Go ahead and shoot for the stars–smart planning can make even the most impossible things possible–but also remember to weigh in your goal’s effort, time and other costs. If you don’t have the time or money, to name just two possible limiting factors, you may be unfairly setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • Realistic
    • Answer truthfully to the questions, “Why do you want to reach this goal? What is the objective behind the goal, and will this goal really achieve that?” You could think having five cats, 10 dogs and a school of fish will make you a more productive person, but will it really?
  • Timely
    • Pick a doable date for your goal, because deadlines instill action and accountability.

These days, we tend to set big goals that immediately become overwhelming, causing us to freeze. Setting SMART goals takes the intimidation factor away, helping us focus on manageable actions–actions we will actually stick to, and form habits out of. Mountain Trek has used SMART goal-setting for the last 18 years, which has helped thousands of guests achieve their health goals.

Here’s the thing: setting SMART goals is only part of the equation; we still need to “walk the walk”.

In “Stronger Than Circumstances: 3 Proven Ways to Overcome Fear, limitations, and Procrastination, to Achieve Your Dreams,” Mary Morrissey, Life Coach and Personal Development Expert, details that those who write down their goals and dreams on a regular basis achieve those desires at a significantly higher level than those who do not.

Why does writing down your goals and dreams strongly impact your chance of achieving them? Ask your brain. No, really. You see, it all boils down to the left and right hemispheres communicating. If you just think about a goal or dream, you’re using the right hemisphere (the imaginative center); when you write it down, you’re using the left hemisphere (the logic center), so you’re physically (well, chemically) transferring dream into reality!

Write down your goals to make them a reality

Since science wasn’t really my thing and I’m trying to make this as easy as possible to understand, the gist is that when you write your goal(s) down, you send your entire being a message saying, “I want this, and I mean it, and I’m going to get it.”

Morrissey emphasizes that writing down your goals opens your subconscious to “seeing” opportunities that simply can’t be observed if you’re tied up with thinking about your goals. To help you reach that subconscious level where the magic really happens, we at Mountain Trek hand out green reminder bracelets. When you tie the bracelet onto your wrist, we ask that you set an intention. The idea is that every time you glance at the bracelet or fiddle with it (like when you’re bored in a meeting or something), you’re empowered to continue on the path toward achieving your goal.

But that’s not all. According to Morrissey, “The likelihood that you’ll transform your desires into reality goes up even further if you share your written goals with a friend who believes in your ability to succeed.” It’s what she calls “partner in believing.” At Mountain Trek, we call this process “building your allies”.

SMART goal: check. Paper and pen: check. Reminder bracelet: check. All that remains on your quest to finally making your dream a reality is to send your weekly progress reports to a friend/ family member/ whoever you’d be excited to update on your progress. According to Deb Knobelman, a PhD Neuroscientist and self-proclaimed Recovering Nervous Nelly:

Knowing that you are accountable to someone outside of yourself can be a powerful psychological push to keep you going. The next time you think it would be easier not to do the thing, or that you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll remember that your accountability partner is waiting for your report, and that might be enough to get you over the hump and one step closer to making that dream a reality.

Long story short, if you want to succeed:

Set a SMART goal–something that’s smart, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

Write your goal down–on paper, your phone, a sticky note, your forehead, you name it.

Share your progress with an ally–anyone from your grandma to a colleague.

In the name of no excuses, we went ahead and created an accountability tool so we can be that friend. It’s simple, yet powerful, and will let you set your goal and share it with the Mountain Trek staff, who will periodically check-in on your accomplishments. ..

Help yourself get unstuck! Join the Mountain Trek community in taking steps toward your dream. YOU are empowered. YOU can change your trajectory. Make a SMART goal, write it down, and submit it in our Goal Tracker. Next stop: results.