Setting and achieving goals is how we change our lives, one step at a time.
We all have goals, things that we would like to do or achieve in the next year, month, week or day. Goals can be big—like building a business or starting a new career; or small, such as getting a workout in or cleaning up your office. One thing that can help you to reach all your goals is the habit of writing them down.
Most of us know that writing down our smaller goals, like getting what we need for the week at the grocery store or remembering to make an important appointment, works; but, how does writing down your big goals and dreams help you achieve them?
The Paper Path to Getting Things Done
When I was in school, I didn’t want to learn anything unless I understood the why behind it. Why do I need to know algebra? I’d wonder. How will that help me in life? (I’m sure my teachers loved me.) So, I wanted to know why writing down my goals would work. What I discovered is writing down goals is proven to work—and it’s even backed by science. (One study by Dominican University involving 149 subjects found that people who wrote down their goals achieved significantly more than the people who did not write down goals.)
There’s a saying, “There is magic between the pen and the paper.” The results you will see from writing down your goals might seem like magic, because most of the action is taking place in your subconscious.
If you simply think about a goal, you are using the right side of your brain, your imagination. When you write down a goal you are using the left side of your brain, the logical side. The logical side of your brain gets to work mapping out the steps and ideas you need to reach your goal, before you even take the first step.
Writing down your goals also activates your brain to start seeing new opportunities. When you write down your goals regularly, they are fresh on your mind and you are more likely to make the time and take the action steps to move yourself forward. This is similar to when you are thinking about buying a certain make and model of car, and suddenly you start seeing that exact car everywhere.
Take Action to Get Things Done
You should write down your goals as often as possible. I would recommend you do so monthly at the least, although daily or weekly is ideal. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and lose focus on goals. Rewriting and reviewing goals regularly can help keep you motivated, and motivation leads to action-taking.
Once your goals are written down, you will be able to create your action steps more easily. Goals can seem overwhelming, especially if you don’t break them down into actionable steps.
Let’s take starting a massage business, for example. You might be thinking about all the supplies you will need, finding a location, what kind of marketing you should do, designing your marketing materials and website, budgets, incorporating and more.
That’s a lot to think about, and the next thing you know your brain just wants to shut down. Taking the time to review your goals can help you create small, doable action steps, like reviewing and comparing business software, seeing what is available for rent in your area, or making an appointment to look at an office space. The next thing you know, you will be in business.
Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck on action steps, or get caught up in excuses and procrastination. One of my favorite exercises to get out of stuck-ness is writing down 10 ideas.
Idea generating is an exercise for your brain that helps you to see possibilities instead of problems. Here’s a few to try: List 10 times a day when you waste time, 10 people you could ask for advice, or 10 ways you could save money to invest in your goals or plan. Don’t judge your ideas, just try to get 10 down. They won’t all be good, but the ones that are can change everything.
Writing down and reviewing goals can also keep us on track with scheduling the action steps we need to take in our planning system. Get creative with this, it’s all about priorities. Do you have to wait for your kids, or for an appointment? That’s a great time to work on one of your goals. You can do research on your phone, send emails or make calls.
A Good Goal
I hope you are now sold on writing down your goals. Moving on, let’s talk about writing good goals. Goals that are too vague are more like hopes or wishes. A good goal is specific and detailed.
In addition to a specific goal, having a powerful why is important for staying motivated to take action. Your why could be anything from desiring a new car, to saving for your children’s college or wanting to have more money for giving and saving. You can certainly have more than one why. Your whys will help you keep going, even when you don’t feel like it or when things just don’t seem to be working.
A well-written goal should be clear, specific and measurable. For example, if you have a goal to earn $5,000 next month. Your journal entry might read:
I plan to earn $5,000 next month after my business expenses are paid. I will create this income through client appointments, gift certificate sales and retail sales. This goal will allow me to pay all of my bills with ease, save $500, pay $500 in debt and reserve the condo for our beach vacation. I will take action by creating a new Valentine’s Day special, following up with clients who haven’t been in in for four weeks or more, offering upgrades and selling home care products.
There are things you can do to make writing your goals even more fun, effective and powerful:
• Create a vision board for your goals and for each area of your life. This will help your subconscious mind to have a clear picture of where it is you are going. Hang your vision board where you will see it often.
• You can also create vision boards on Pinterest and scroll through your pins when you need some motivation. Write out your dream day in detail, including how you feel and what your day is like having achieved your goals.
• Get a real feel for what it will be like to achieve your goal; for example, if you want to purchase a home in a certain neighborhood, look for an open house to go to.
• If a new job is your goal, visit some places you think you might like to work, learn about the business and receive a service.
• Give your goal a timeline. Some goals may take years to achieve and some only days or weeks, but a timeline is part of what makes a goal a goal and not just a wish.
Find a Goal Buddy
Not all goals need to be about business or money. You can set goals for every area of your life: your health, relationships, leisure time, home and spiritual practices. Maybe you want more of a connection with your significant other. You could set a goal to spend more time together, and go on dates. When I wanted to see my adult family members more often, I started a once-a-month family dinner night.
Getting things done can usually be broken down into simple steps, but that still doesn’t make it easy. You may have to battle self-doubt, take risks and get out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to find excuses and put things off. Having an accountability partner or group can really help.
Just like having an exercise buddy can help us show up at the gym, an accountability partner can help keep us on track. Find a friend whom you can talk to once a week, someone who is positive and encouraging and wants to work on reaching goals together. A business or life coach can also help in this area. Investing in yourself and having someone focused on helping you reach your goals can be invaluable.
There are so many ways to reach your goals—and tips, tricks and ideas to help you get there. One important thing you can do is to write down your goals. Take that first step. You and your life are worth it.
Gael Wood has more than 20 years of experience in the massage and spa industry. She now concentrates on training massage and spa therapists in business, spa services and greater success. Visit gaelwood.com for a complimentary Massage & Spa Success Toolkit. She is a regular contributor to MASSAGE Magazine and her articles include “Multiple Income Streams: More Money, Less Stress” (July 2017) and “What is the Best Fit for You? Business Owner Vs. Employed Massage Therapist” (New Practitioner Issue, September 2017).
Gael Wood has more than 20 years of experience in the massage and spa industry, including day spas, resorts and office settings; owning a therapeutic massage office and day spa; and currently, in an outcall practice. Gael specializes in educating massage and spa therapists in marketing, business start-up, customer service and spa services through her business, Gael Wood Massage and Spa Success.
She is also a MASSAGE Magazine All-Star, one of a group of massage-and-business educators who are inspiring MASSAGE Magazine’s community of massage therapists in our print magazine, on our social media channels and on massagemag.com.