How to Commit to Your Goals: Write Them Down

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Goals!" by Brian Tracy. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you struggle to stick to your goals and follow through to the end? How do you commit to the goals you set for yourself?

Once you have a strong conviction that you can achieve whatever you set out to do, it’s time to commit to your goals on paper. When you write down your goals, you solidify them in your mind, thereby increasing the likelihood that you’ll actually follow through with them.

Here is how writing down your goals can help you increase your commitment to them and help you follow through.

The Power of Writing Down Your Goals

The simple act of writing down your goals can make a huge difference in your commitment to work towards them.

Tracy says that the simple act of writing down your goals is transformative, and he cites a Harvard study to back up his claim: In the study, Harvard MBA graduates who had written down their goals after graduation were later found to be earning 10 times more than those who hadn’t written down their goals. (Shortform note: The Harvard study that Tracy mentions here is widely cited in books and articles. However, there is no record that this study ever took place. Still, other studies have shown that writing down goals increases your chances of success.)

Tracy recommends that you spend five minutes a day listing 10 to 15 goals. Refine the list as the days go by until your goals become clearer and eventually become second nature to you. This daily act of writing will help you commit to your goals by forging a stronger connection between your conscious and subconscious mind, orienting you toward goal-attaining actions. Tracy says it’s okay to be skeptical about this connection, but you should have the discipline to keep doing the exercise anyway.

Why You Should Strengthen Your Conscious-Subconscious Connection

Tracy says that regularly writing down your goals reinforces the connection between your conscious and subconscious, but he doesn’t go into detail about how this connection can help you. Author Maxwell Maltz explains that strengthening this connection is important to prevent yourself from sabotaging your efforts. In Psycho-Cybernetics, he writes that consciously deciding to achieve goals isn’t enough to actually help you achieve them—these conscious goals should also be aligned with your subconscious goals, otherwise, you’ll engage in self-sabotaging behaviors. For example, your conscious goal might be to have an intimate relationship, but your subconscious goals might lead you to push people away. 

To address this incongruence, Maltz says that you should work on your self-image, which is the “operator” of your subconscious. Having a positive self-image ensures that your subconscious leads you toward productive, rather than destructive, behaviors.

How to Commit to Your Goals: Write Them Down

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Here's what you'll find in our full Goals! summary:

  • Brian Tracy's steps to setting and reaching your goals
  • How to approach your goals with the right mentality
  • Why persistence is more important than courage

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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