Self-made millionaire: The simple strategy that helped increase my odds of success by 42%

Photo: Bonnie Tsang Studio

Writing down our goals is what we naturally do in every other area of life when we want to produce a result.

If you're renovating your kitchen, you don't just wake up and take a sledgehammer to the sink. You first design a plan on paper. Need to pick up groceries from the supermarket? Write a list. Want to master a new subject? Take written notes. Going on a trip? Map out your destination.

The power of writing down your goals

An often-cited study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University of California, shows the true power of writing down your goals.

Matthew's sample group included men and women, ages 23 to 72, from around the world and all walks of life: Entrepreneurs, educators, health care professionals, artists, lawyers and bankers. 

She divided the participants into two groups: Those who wrote down their goals and those who didn't. The results were clear: Participants who wrote down their goals achieved those desires at a significantly higher level than those who didn't.

In fact, she found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a daily basis.

The goal-writing method that worked for me

As simple as it may sound, most people still don't write down what's most important to them.

Writing down my goals has truly helped me increase my odds of success and ultimately achieve my dreams. As a result, I became inspired to help others do the same — and today, I'm the founder of a multimillion-dollar life coaching empire.

If you can commit to this five-step goal-writing method and work on it regularly, it can radically change your life, too.

Here's how to begin:

1. List your top one-year dreams. Set a timer for 15 minutes and make a list of top dreams, goals or projects you're most excited to start figuring out within the next year.

Think about what aspirations you're ready to materialize. What would you like to change, start, stop, pursue, heal, transform, learn, experience, explore, become, create or achieve?

2. Get real about your dreams. Look back at your list. There's likely one or two items that make your heart jump with fear or excitement — or both! Select the two that you feel most drawn to and circle them. For each dream, answer the questions below:

  • Why is this dream important to you?
  • What difference will this make in your life?
  • How will it impact you creatively, emotionally, physically and financially?
  • Who else will be positively impacted by you achieving this dream?

Then, for each of those answers, dig deeper. Ask yourself: And why is THAT important? Then ask it again: And why is THAT important? 

Writing down our goals is what we naturally do in every other area of life when we want to produce a result.

Drill down several layers until you get to the core of why this dream matters and what you want to feel, experience or share as a result of achieving it. This step is important: Purpose fuels persistence. Reasons come before results.

3. Choose one dream. It's time to make your choice. This dream will serve as your training ground to behaving and believing that everything is "figureoutable."

You must develop your ability to focus and concentrate, which is why it's essential that you choose just one significant dream for now. In doing so, you will cultivate a set of mental strengths, emotional disciplines and behavioral habits that will help you accomplish all future goals. 

4. Make it specific, measurable and actionable. State your dream in a way that you or anyone else could measure. This forces you to chunk your dream down and make it unmistakably actionable. 

You don't have to map out every single step. Instead, use simple, clear baby steps. For example, "become a best-selling author" might become "write for 30 minutes every day and finish a first draft of my book by Christmas."

"Fix my marriage" might become "interview at least three couples' therapists and read 'Getting the Love You Want' book within six weeks." (FYI, that book is magic!)

5. Determine your next three steps — and get started now. What are three simple actions you can take to get closer to that eventual goal of figuring things out? What could you do in 10 minutes or less, the first of which could be done right now?

Focus on small, active steps like making a phone call, setting up an appointing or registering for a class. No matter what, take that first action step today. I'm talking right now. Then, add steps two and three to your calendar. Because as the saying goes, someday is not a day of the week.

As you complete each step, continue to set new ones. Keep in mind that the journey won't be easy; significant dreams come with significant challenges, and the road ahead won't be filled with rainbows and unicorns. 

But at this point, you've already powered through the some of the hardest parts: Defining your dreams and getting started.

Ambiguity is the enemy of accomplishment

In our endlessly distracted, overcommitted, overstretched world, writing down your dreams and what's most important to you forces you to be clear and specific about what you want.

As simple as it sounds, most people still don't write down what's most important to them.

Now, obviously, you shouldn't just write your goal in a journal and call it a day. You should look at it often. Daily is ideal. This keeps your top priority top of mind.

Marie Forleo is the star of the award-winning show "MarieTV" and host of "The Marie Forleo Podcast." Named by Oprah as a thought leader for the next generation, Marie runs B-School, a business training program, and has taught entrepreneurs, artists and go-getters from all walks of life how to dream big and achieve results. She is also the author of "Everything Is Figureoutable."

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*This is an adapted excerpt from "Everything is Figureoutable" by Marie Forleo, with permission of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Marie Forleo, 2019.