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Harvard Business School and Yale Studies Hogwash

I can’t say for sure where I first read about the Harvard Business School study that was done with one of the graduating classes where they followed up with them 20 years later and discovered that 95% of those graduates who wrote their goals down after graduating achieved their goals. And for those graduates that didn’t write down their goals 20 years later only 5% had achieved their goals. There is similar information going around about a Yale University study as well.


And, I’ve even seen it quoted as the Harvard Business School one being a 30 year study. These studies are quoted in the context of describing how important it is to simply write down your goals. First thing I want to say here is if anyone reading this can actually show me either of these studies I’ll give you a $100. Don’t just point me to some other book or article that quotes this study. I want to see the actual study. I’m pretty confident you aren’t going to find either of those studies, because I’ve done plenty of research looking for them and never found them. However, I’m human and I could be wrong. If anyone out there can prove me wrong I’ll send you the $100.

Second thing I want to make clear is I’ve written down PLENTY of goals and I’m not ashamed to share there are plenty of goals I haven’t ever achieved simply by writing them down. If it was only that easy I’d be writing down all kinds of crazy goals. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now typing this because I’d be a rock star, or a NASA Astronaut, or both, simply because I decided to write those down as my goals. Don’t get me wrong there is absolutely nothing wrong with aiming for the stars when setting goals. The point I’m making here is that simply writing them down isn’t going to cut it. You really do have to set a plan and take action as well.

Take the case of being a rock star. If that is the goal you want to set out to achieve you better be ready to start learning to play a musical instrument, sign up for singing lessons, go out and start  a band, and begin doing everything you can day in and day out to learn all that you will need to learn to be a rock star. If you think just writing down your goal on a piece of paper and then sitting back to wait for the day when you’ll be zapped into a rock star is going to be enough you are going to be waiting your whole life for something that isn’t going to happen.

Any success coach or personal and professional development trainer who is at all competent will be covering the importance of writing your goals down, however it will not be the only thing they say you should do in the context of setting and working towards your goals. It will be one step in your plan towards your goals. When you read something claiming that 95% of those people who simply wrote down their goals achieved them step back and question what is being said. I guarantee that simply writing it down was not the key to success. This may be obvious to many people, but if you are new to goal setting I don’t want you come across this claim, write down your goals, and then sit back and wait the whole rest of your life for the goal gods to bless you with your written down goals. I want you to succeed and if you are going to succeed you are going to have to work day in and day out towards achieving the goals you set for yourself.

Now go use the Goal Setting Blue Print. Develop your Intense Desire, Write Your Goal Down, Identify the roadblocks and resources, Set a Deadline for your goal, Create a Plan, Create a Mental Picture of already achieving your goal, and probably the most important step is PERSISTANCE.

Go be Successful in All Areas of Your Life.



9 Comments

katie pie  on August 1st, 2010

Great detailed information, I just bookmarked you on my google reader.

Sent from my iPad 4G

SeanPElliott  on August 2nd, 2010

Thank you Katie. I appreciate the compliment and the follow. I’m working on getting some other features on this site added and should have commentluv on it soon.

Thank you again.

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Mike Morrison  on August 23rd, 2010

There is plenty of evidence that it did not take place – and none to say that it did – at yale or harvard – its a myth!
http://rapidbi.com/management/harvard-yale-written-goals-study-fact-or-fiction/

SeanPElliott  on September 6th, 2010

Looks like you did your share of research on this as well Mike. Amazing how many people hear or read something and take it for face value without checking it out. It’s a lot like all the chain emails people like to send out that are often times filled with completely false garbage.

veterinary medicine  on January 14th, 2011

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

Mike Morrison  on April 2nd, 2011

Hi Sean
I have kept an eye on this and things have changed a little.
There now is a study – not a longitudinal one – but non-the less a study on written goals.
It is by Gail Matthews at Dominican University, & I have added the reference to my blog piece.

SeanPElliott  on April 7th, 2011

Hello Mike,

Thank you for the update. I’ll go take a peak at your blog and see if I can find the post and the reference. I’m anxious to read up on it. Sounds like it will be interesting.

Hope all is well on your end and you are having a great week.

-Sean

Rhammond  on May 19th, 2011

Who cares if these studies were done or not. If you have any understanding of the psychology of the mind, you intuitively understand that people who set goals vs. those who don’t, are more likely to accomplish “their” goals.This is not rockett science, and it would be emabarrassing to think we would even waste money to do such a study.

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