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David Adeleke: Written Goals



People live up to what they have written down. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR OnPoint 2001, PN* 7915), once someone puts something in writing, the odds that he or she will fulfill the commitment greatly increases. This principle of life is proven in several ways; for example, people who write down their goals are much more likely to follow, remember and fulfill these goals than people who do not write them down. Furthermore, once someone puts a commitment into writing, they feel they are obliged to fulfill it. This explains why successful organizations have the habit of putting up their mission statements, visions and core values all over the walls of their offices. This serves as a way of reminding their stakeholders about the direction in which they are heading.

Of course, this rule, as scientifically proven as it is, doesn’t work for everybody. There are those that, no matter how much writing they do, will never live by their commitments and achieve their goals. However, that shouldn’t be you. The understanding of this rule has helped improve my level of productivity. For example, before heading into the youth service year, I made a list of 12 goals I must achieve by July 2015. Two, out of those goals have been achieved, one of which is to become a feature writer on Bella Naija (oya, clap for me now!). Also, the fact that I wrote down my goals as afforded me the opportunity of revisiting and updating them almost weekly. In the last four months, I have updated the list more than twice. In the process, I took out the goals that no longer made meaning and added new ones to the list. The list now has a new look to it. The advantage of having my goals in writing is that I get to look at them whenever I feel I’m losing sight of what’s important and the thought of not achieving all of them spurs me back into action. As a matter of fact, the pursuit of these goals enabled me adopt a new philosophy for living: “there is no such thing as free time”.

Another thing about written goals and commitments is that, once made public, they become even more powerful. When you make your commitment to a cause public knowledge, you put yourself under obligation to fulfill it (consciously or unconsciously). This will work especially well for people who lack internal discipline and rely on external factors to discipline themselves. I know a fellow who belonged to this category of people. He felt he didn’t have a good grip on himself so he relied on friends and external forces to help put himself under.

However, with time, he has come to grips with the intricacies of internal discipline and he’s been able to control himself better than before. Written goals are like written mathematical formulas, they make the examinations of life easier to overcome. I remember during WAEC exam, mathematics formula and log book was the saving grace. Without that book, I probably wouldn’t have been able to solve most of the math questions because I didn’t know them offhand. That’s how it is with written goals too. They give you the needed guidance on how you should approach life, especially in tough times. It is imperative you understand that your goals shouldn’t be set in stone. Give room for flexibility and change, because sometimes you will need to bend to life’s winds so you can survive and make meaning of things.

Have a wonderful time putting down all your goals, no matter how few or numerous, or easy or difficult they are. You’ll never regret it.

*PN stands for Product Number.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime |  Tatsianama 

David I. Adeleke is a personal development writer and blogger. He is the main author on where he is currently running a #100DaysofGrowth series. Follow him Twitter: @DavidIAdeleke You can also like his Facebook page: David Adeleke’s Blog


  1. Hephzibah Frances

    Frances Okoro

    December 11, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    I can testify to this..most of the goals I have achieved/will still achieve this year we’re mostly due to the fact that I wrote them down and revisited them time after does help.
    And when I write stuff on my blog, i’m more inclined to follow through.

    Ps:i’m clapping for you, yay, at feature writer for BN.

  2. chi-e-z

    December 11, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Chai I wish I was like you but when I write down goals it’s like counter productive I start to feel even more obliged, panic, and finally feel hopeless after I don’t accomplish all those stuff. I’ve just learnt too much stress over written goals probably worsens my productivity rather than helps it. Unlike most people my mind likes doing stuff unaware sometimes so I just try all the stress lessening things I can.

    • Adeleke David

      December 11, 2014 at 11:00 pm

      See, e no too hard like that. I used to think writing down goals was too much stress until I read Brian Tracy’s ‘Goals’. Since then, I write everything down and my productivity has greatly increased for it. It just takes discipline and proper willpower. I know you can do it too.

    • Que

      December 12, 2014 at 10:29 am

      @Chi-e-z, I may be wrong, but it sounds like after writing, you then go into ‘analysis- paralysis’mode (Fola Daniels wrote bout this very recently ) …. this is a huge temptation for me sometimes, its the inner control freak, trying to be certain of every necessary step, b4 plunging…..but everything isnt always guaranteed. I had to develop a ‘doing’ attitude, regardless of whether the entire written goals are met or not…. in time, I realised that I often got to even discover more than I had earlier thought possible.

      Dont give up on writing just yet, I can promise from experience there’s no better feeling than coming across something you wrote dates back, and have accomplished….. just focus on the ‘active part of pursuing the goals and unproductivity will be a thing of the past….slowly, but surely.

  3. Oyenike

    December 12, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Thanks a lot for this writeup. After months of trying to figure out my goals in my head, I finally decided to write them down this night just minutes before I read this. Was about giving up on writing the goals but thanks to you, my fire is re-ignited.

  4. Ifu-love

    December 12, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Thanks david for dis wonderful write up.i think i will start practicing.thanks once again

  5. Tosin

    December 12, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Always writing, so yeah, writing is good for the goals 🙂

  6. anonymous

    December 12, 2014 at 11:36 am

    My Goals for this year were:

    – Travel to 2 foreign nations
    – Stand out in my organization
    -Start my Vlog
    – Finish my MBA.
    – Attend a Course at LBS.

    Only two and three were not accomplished. Okay I did try 3 but I hated the Video edit quality so I’ve found a better editor. Had to willingly differ 4

    Goals for next year
    – Start my Vlog ( This will happen in January)
    -Finish my MBA
    – Buy a new Car
    – Celebrate my birthday in Paris

    Dat’s all.

    • Ifeanyi

      December 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Those are NOT SMART GOALS. They are just wishful thinking or at best Plans…
      The “SMART” model of goal setting:

      S = Specific

      M = Measurable

      A = Achievable

      R = Relevant

      T = Time-bounded

      Copied: Brian Tracy

  7. Mayowa oshin

    December 17, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Hey Adeleke great post. The new year is approaching and many people who will write their goals down will not accomplish them. In a way you can feel defeated if every year you write down goals and never get to do it. Many authors on this topic have recommended visualising already achieving those goals, the emotions may help to focus on the vision. What is your opinion on starting with ‘realistic’ goals that can be achieved in the short term and then scaling over time?

    • Adeleke David

      December 18, 2014 at 7:31 pm

      I think it’s great to start small with the more realistic goals. That way, the joy and motivation that come with achieving things (no matter how little they seem) will encourage you to move on to tougher ones.

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