Why Committing Your Goals To Paper Makes You More Likely To Achieve Them

Boost your family's chances of achieving long-term goals.

Families tend to have lots of goals. They might include helping a child pass exams or mum or dad gain promotion. They might involve motivating the whole family to get fitter or eat more healthily. Whatever they are, science has found that simply setting goals is the first step to making them happen.

Perhaps the most famous example of that is John F Kennedy’s 1961 speech in which he set the goal of safely landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. This was a project fraught with danger and strewn with technological obstacles. And in 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped safely out onto to the lunar surface.

JFK had a goal, and he set it in a way that made it more likely to be successful. For a start, his ambition was specific and time limited. The scientists, engineers and astronauts all knew what had to be achieved, and when.

Held to account

And there was another factor that helped America achieve its lunar ambition. JFK’s goal was written down. It was written down in his speech, and then printed countless times by the world’s press. The goal was documented. And one thing we now know is that documenting our goals helps us achieve them.

By writing down JFK’s goal, the newspapers ensured they held the project to account. They made failure potentially humiliating, and success a national triumph. Even on a much smaller scale - when it comes to the goals we set as families - writing down our goals provides an additional motivation to achieve them. We create a tangible document of ambition. The goal is always there in black and white, impossible to forget or fudge.

Writing down our goals is scientifically proven to work. In 2014 Dr Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, gathered people from all walks of life and split them into groups. Some wrote down their goals and some didn’t. The group that put pen to paper were 42% more likely to achieve their stated ambitions.

Why does writing our goals down work? For a start, it helps us to properly define them, and makes us think about what constitutes a realistic target, and what steps we need to take to achieve it. A 2010 study found that students chasing goals they found difficult often benefited from writing down how they saw their goals being achieved.

Pin it down

What else makes a successful written goal? Other research has shown that goals should be specific rather than woolly, challenging but not too difficult, and meaningful rather than trivial. The outcome of the goal should be something you value, like more quality family time or a healthier lifestyle. If you think you deserve a promotion but don’t especially want the extra work and responsibility the new role will entail, it’s unlikely you will achieve your goal.

There’s something even more basic about writing down goals. We can take written goals with us for motivation. We can pin them to the kitchen notice board so the whole family is continually reminded of them. We can make copies for everyone concerned.

So what form should your family’s written goals take? That’s really up to you. You can simply write down the goal, the date you want to achieve it by, and the steps you will take to help you get there. Or you can try ‘bullet journalling’, a method that uses bullet points to track progress towards goals, allowing you to quickly and easily note everything you’ve done that day to help achieve an ultimate aim. Bullet journaling may be particularly useful if your goals are quite long-term and require lots of small everyday actions to achieve.

Whatever you choose, write it down or type it onto a computer and print out the results. If the latter, it’s worth investing in HP Instant Ink, which delivers ink right to your door when you need it (meaning you’ll never miss a day documenting your achievements) and gives you 15 free page printouts a month with the free printing plan.

Of course, achieving your goals is above all about determination and desire. But if your heart really is in it, keeping a written record of what you want to achieve, and the steps you’ll take to achieve it, makes the journey that little bit easier.

If you prefer to type and print your goals, it’s worth investing in HP Instant Ink, which delivers ink right to your door when you need it (meaning you’ll never miss a day documenting your achievements) and gives you 15 free page printouts a month with the Free Printing Plan.

For lovers of paper and planning, HP Instant Ink is printing made easy. Your printer lets HP know when you need more ink, and HP Original Ink is delivered right to your door, before you run out.