A New Year’s resolution

To write down my goals and to try and gear my life – or the rest of it anyway – towards achieving them.

But before I go further, let me wish all my readers a successful new year for 2005. All the best to you, and all of yours.

The following story seems to be an Urban Myth but I will retell it as a lot of it could actually happen. For example the figure of 3% of students with written goals is probably a little high, as is the same 3% having ten times more money than the remaining 97%!

But it is a story, and it makes a point. – The Urban Myth part of my message is between the rules.

There was once a Harvard study conducted between 1979 and 1989. In 1979, the graduates of the MBA program were given a questionnaire to fill in upon their MBA graduation. The college was only interested in one of the question/answers. The question was *Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?*

Only 3 percent of the graduates had written goals and plans. Thirteen percent had goals, but not in writing. And 84 percent had no specific goals at all. The students were asked to keep in touch with the college.

Ten years later, in 1989, the ex-students were asked, once again, to fill in a questionnaire. And once again, the college was only interested in one question/answer. The question was “How much wealth have you amassed since taken your degree?”.

The college researchers found that the 13 percent who had goals that were not in writing were earning twice as much as the 84 percent of students who had no goals at all.

But most surprisingly, they found that the 3 percent of graduates who had clear, written goals when they left Harvard were earning, on average, 10 times as much as the other 97 percent of graduates all together!

The only difference between the groups was the “clarity” of the goals they had for themselves when they graduated.

There are so many ways of writing your goals, and there are quite a few books on the subject.

My way is a simplified method which I put together in my younger days when I worked for Mullards Electronics. I had not found books on goals when I was at that age although I am sure they existed.

I used this method for my job of estimating future supplies and turned it around into a system of writing up my goals. I also took some information from other sources.

So this is what I did.

First of all, I wrote up where I wanted to be on retirement, using my wildest imagination rather than looking for where I was at the present.

Then I build down from that date, in ten goal year stages, where I had to get to in order to fulfil my dream.

At the bottom of the ladder I had future ‘four month’, ‘one year’ and ‘four year’ goal plans.

The four month plan was upgraded every month, and each four months, the one year plan and four year plan were upgraded. Then each year, all the other stages were upgraded as was the final goal.

At first, my goals were “Micky Mouse” goals, founded in dreamland. But after a couple of years of gradually tweaking them, each goal started to become more realistic and by the fifth year I knew exactly what I could expect out of life.

Yes, I agree that ten minutes work every month, ten minutes extra each four months, and twenty minutes work every year does seem awfully difficult. Especially with so much on TV and at the local pub. But then, if that is all you want out of life, perhaps it would be a waste of time?

It’s like going for a long drive without a map or an idea of where you really wanted to go. If you had planned your visit and route in advance, and kept your map handy for reference, you would probably have got to where you were going very much faster.


  1. #1 by Andrew on Friday, 4 February 2005 - 4:10 pm

    Just noted the Anonymous article.I find it sad that he feels everything in life should be free. What about all the employment Tony Robbins offer?Andrew

  2. #2 by Anonymous on Saturday, 18 December 2004 - 12:23 am

    Andrew – you fail to mention if all this writing down of your goals has made the slightest difference. What I need to know before I believe it makes any difference at all is to a) have sight of what you wrote as your goals and b) a corresponding list of achievements. If, as you say, writing down goals makes a difference, I assume that your two lists will run in parallel. Personally, I think this is all balls – the sort of thing that people like Tony Robbins make up in order to part people from their money by convincing them that their inadequacies can be solved if they will just but buy a book or a series of CDs. Like your correspondent, I just don’t believe that there ever was such a Harvard study. If there was, and you clearly believe there was, then can you please quote a source for it so that I can check it out for myself?

  3. #3 by Andrew on Thursday, 16 December 2004 - 5:04 pm

    Dear dear Patsi,Please read my blog again carefully, and then read your own article. You will note that all the information I wrote about goals are my own and bear no relation to anything written in yours, whatsoever. :-)The story – which you say is false – and may well be, is around in so many areas on the Internet. I have two separate files on it on my own computer. I got the story originly for, I believe, Anthony Robbins.Anyway your kind comments at the end are very welcome.Thank you.Andrew.PS, I will do some research of my own, and if you are right, rewrite the article slightly to reflect this.

  4. #4 by Anonymous on Thursday, 16 December 2004 - 4:43 pm

    Hi, Andrew. Unfortunately when I wrote my article about goals, from which you have cited the above research, a reader contacted me to let me know that Fast Company had “debunked” this mythological study on goals. It turns out there was no such study. Many motivational gurus from Brian Tracy, Mark McCormack, Zig Ziglar and others, all attribute it to having come from each other. It never existed. Makes a great story though! I have since changed my article to reflect this fact. As one guru said, “Well, if this study doesn’t exist, it should!” And next time you copy information from my articles, please contact me FIRST for permission. This would have avoided you being caught in this error! Patsi Krakoff, http://www.coachezines.com and http://www.customizednewsletters.com. Good luck to you.

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