Have a goal? You can double your odds of success.

Make_a_PromiseA colleague called me yesterday and said, “I want to talk about commitment.” We had just finished brainstorming an idea over a few days and we both agreed we had something good, quite good, excellent actually. She wanted to have that conversation about accountability, about follow through. Which got me thinking about how to improve the odds of completing anything we set our minds to.

A group of researchers in California did an interesting study in which they randomly assigned people to five different groups. All five groups had to think about and prioritize goals they wanted to accomplish over the next four weeks.

  • All Groups had to think about their goals
  • Group 2 through 5 had to write them down
  • Group 3 had to also write specific action items
  • Group 4 had to also share those action items with someone
  • Group 5 had to also share those action items and progress regularly

Group 1 had a 43% completion rate on the goals they thought about, which is a little better than the 29% who actually complete marathon training schedules and show up at the starting line. But those in Group 5 who had to not only write down their goals, but be specific, and share their progress regularly had a 76% completion rate.

It’s why every support group imaginable exists – from cooking classes to exercise bootcamps to beekeeping clubs. When we build a cohort of supportive peers and hold ourselves accountable to them on a regular basis, success happens.

One of the most simple and effective accountability tools I know goes like:

  1. Write down up to 20 things you want to improve on. It can be anything from making people laugh to doing more pushups to making dinner for your kids. Anything.
  2. Next turn those goals into simple yes/no questions such as, Did you make someone smile today? You can also frame the questions to require a number answer, such as “How many miles did you run today?” No questions requiring elaborate answers. Keep it simple.
  3. Now give those questions to someone who will call you up every day, or twice a week and ask you your own questions.

When you know you have to testify to someone you care about on the goals that you want to accomplish, you will show up, you will do the work, make the difference, and answer that call every day prepared to give answers you believe in.

Specificity + Accountability + Consistency = Results.

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