By Dirk Zeller

People who clearly define and write down their goals are more likely to accomplish them — and in a shorter time frame and more direct fashion. People who don’t clarify and write out their goals invest more time and accomplish less.

Some studies calculate that only about 3 percent of goal‐setters document their aspirations. These folks are the ones who have the most money, influence, power, prestige, freedom, and time to work toward their dreams.

When you take the time to write down your goals, you clarify them and sharpen your vision for attaining them, which allows you to do the following:

  • Take control of your life. By identifying what’s most important to you and putting it on paper, you tell your brain that this isn’t a dream to be ignored as a hope‐to, wish‐to, or would‐like‐to. It’s really something for which you’re willing to invest time, effort, energy, and emotion.

  • Map out the most direct route to achievement. When you put your goals in writing, you’re setting your sights on the destination before you begin. Your life goals become the framework for how you prioritize and manage your time. You begin the process of planning and strategizing about the steps you can take to achieve that goal. Your brain starts to look for the best, most direct route and the route with the lowest time investment.

  • Limit detours. Ever hear the saying “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”? Problem is, if you head off on just any road, you’re likely to end up in a place you don’t want to be.

    By documenting your goals, you can more easily gauge whether an effort is likely to bring you closer to or further away from them. With your goals in front of you, you make fewer wrong turns and invest less time in trial‐and‐error dead ends. If you know that “be an outstanding father” is at the top of your written list, then overtime, extra assignments, travel, and other actions that take you away from your kids won’t distract you as easily; you know you’re more likely to achieve this goal by spending time with your kids, going to their games, taking walks, throwing a ball, playing dress‐up, going to the park, or writing a note.

  • Stay motivated. Written goals fuel motivation, inducing you to perform at a higher level and at a faster rate in order to achieve.