The Psychology of Writing Down Goals

writing down goals

Every year, millions of people worldwide set New Year’s resolutions – a tradition dating back thousands of years. Whether your goals are to get fit, save more money, make new friends or something else, you undoubtedly made them with the intent to see them through. Unfortunately, up to 80% of New Year’s resolutions don’t succeed, with most people losing their enthusiasm and abandoning their newfound ambitions by mid-February. Why do so many resolutions fail, and how can you be in that rare 20% of people who make their goals a reality? 

Successful Goal-Setting

The dawn of a new year represents a fresh start. When you turned the calendar to Jan. 1, you may have felt a sense of renewed enthusiasm. Will 2022 be the year you shed those last stubborn pounds, start contributing to a retirement fund or save up enough to put a down payment on a house? Whatever your resolutions are, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment if your goals don’t share these SMART characteristics.

  • Specific: Instead of saying something vague like “I want to lose weight,” decide how many pounds you want to lose. 
  • Measurable: A measurable resolution is one that allows you to track your progress.
  • Achievable: Some people try to stretch themselves by deliberately setting pie-in-the-sky goals that are nearly impossible to reach. Instead, ensure your resolution is something you can accomplish. For example, if you struggle with depression, exercising daily might not currently be an attainable goal.
  • Realistic: Setting an objective of losing 25 pounds in a month is specific, but not realistic (or healthy).
  • Time-bound: Some resolutions fail because they are too open-ended. Give yourself a deadline for achieving your goal.

Benefits of Writing Down Goals

SMART goal-setting is one way to set yourself up for more success in 2022, but how do you stay motivated to keep making progress? You may be surprised to learn that the solution to this frustrating issue can be as straightforward as grabbing a pen and a piece of paper and writing down goals. Participants in one study were 42% more likely to accomplish objectives after writing them out. Here’s why. 

1. It Demonstrates Your Commitment

Cast your memory back to a time when you’ve filled out paperwork to complete an official transaction such as accepting a job offer or buying a new car. The occasion probably felt significant because you were committing to a long-term agreement. Similarly, you can think of writing down goals as creating a contract with yourself – if you want to make it seem more official, you can even sign it. Now, you have a document that holds you accountable. 

2. It Gives You Clarity

Writing down goals forces you to define them in ways you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. By making a handwritten list, you can more easily spot anything that feels unrealistic or vague and weed it out. Narrowing down a small number of specific, measurable goals to work toward allows you to prioritize what would make the most significant impact in your life. 

3. It Improves Mindfulness

Yes, you could choose to type out a list of your goals – after all, some say handwriting is a dying art. But writing down goals by hand could bring you various mental benefits, including improving your ability to retain the information and forcing you to slow down and be more intentional.

Keep Your Resolution to Get Healthier in 2022

If issues like psychiatric disorders and behavioral or substance addictions are making your life feel like a struggle, make professional treatment part of your 2022 health resolutions. At Pine Grove, we offer mental health services for adults with these concerns, allowing our clients to live their best lives. To learn more about what we offer, please reach out to us today.

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