The Science of Achievement: Why Only 8% of Goal Setters Achieve their Goals

If you’re one of the millions (and even billions) who write down a new set of goals to work on as you ring in the New Year, researchers at the University of Scranton have some really bad news to inform: only 8% of people who set New Year goals will actually ever achieve them. This means 92% or the majority of these goal setters, will never see their big plans come to fruition. This also means that a great deal of the population are not dedicating the right amount of time, effort, and energy towards meeting their goals.

Before you reach for your pitchforks, this report does not intend to discourage avid New Year goal setters (and that could be you) from trying again next year. Instead, allow this report to reveal what it takes to be just as successful as the lucky 8%.

It All Begins with Having the Right Habits

Good habits, according to the report, play a role in individuals’ ability to achieve their goals. Naturally, those who already possess the right set of habits have a head start towards achieving just about anything they plan. Meanwhile, those who have yet to adopt the right motivations, mindset, and routines will have to work hard in order to successfully achieve their goals.

If you must take on a new habit, you probably need to fight back procrastination. Procrastination is not just a mood or a decision to not do what you should be doing; it is also a habit in itself. When you’ve allowed your body and mind to welcome procrastination easily, it will turn this attitude into a habit. And you know what they say about bad habits-- these die hard.

Aside from being a bad habit, procrastination can also be seen as a defence mechanism that your body might sink into without you noticing it. Oftentimes, when you’ve reached a certain level of tiredness and fear of finishing a particular task, you will feel unmotivated to focus on the work ahead because it overwhelms you. Without you being aware of it, your body will just sink into a state of laziness and apathy. This is a form of office procrastination, which you can, fortunately, arrest just by making a few lifestyle changes.

If you work a desk job, you will experience procrastination more often than your active peers because the computer, which you would need to work, is a window to one distraction after another. Whether it’s chatting with friends, playing games, or rummaging through posts on social media, the internet can be full of entertaining timewasters. If you want to set goals better and actually achieve them, make sure to keep your procrastination under wraps.

One of the most common ways to “snap out” of a period of procrastination is to change your work positions from time to time and to work at a posture that is healthy and comfortable for you. Leave your desk when you can or work from a standing desk instead. Alternatively, after long hours of sitting or standing, consider going for a quick stretch or a brief yoga session.

The science behind this is simple: you tend to be more productive and creative when your mind and body are active.

Set Specific and Detailed Goals

Sometimes, how you phrase or state your goals can affect your attitude towards them. In a PsycNET report by Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, goal setters who state their plans vaguely are less likely to take them seriously and are most likely to fail at achieving them. More specific goals or goals that are set with more details tend to become more realistic for the goal setter.

Take these two statements for example: “I want to lose weight” versus “By July 4th, I should lose 10 pounds in my overall weight, 7 inches off of my weight, and I should be 3 sizes down when it comes to my clothing measurements.”

The first goal, which is stated vaguely, does not give you realistic milestones or standards to achieve. The latter, however, tells you the numbers, the date, and the condition your body should be upon a certain date. The additional information makes the goal seem easier to digest, do, and remember mainly because it is phrased like a specific command you are setting for yourself.

Utilize Work Techniques or Strategies

Sometimes, motivational posters are not enough.

One of the most effective ways to actually start adopting new habits again is to manage your time properly. In some instances, you may even need to micromanage yourself. There are two ways to approach this: you could keep a schedule of your daily activities, or if you are comfortable with managing your time in little chunks, you could pattern your work routine around the Pomodoro technique or the 52-17 rule.

The Pomodoro technique is one of the oldest work-leisure management systems out there. By principle, it encourages users to focus on important tasks for 25 minutes or to divide parts of the task into 25-minute chunks. After that period, they can use the next 5 minutes for rest and resume with the task once the break period is up.

The 52-17 principle works the same way, but only with longer timeframes. Instead of focusing on the task at hand for 25 minutes, you work for 52 (close to an hour) to later spend the next 17 minutes on relaxation or on a quick break.

Once you’ve employed, adopted, and even perfected these techniques, it won’t be long until you find yourself with the rest of the world’s 8% achievers. Get started today.