Goal Journaling

“Ideas can come from anywhere and at any time. The problem with making mental notes is that the ink fades very rapidly.” – Rolf Smith

You would never imagine the power of writing things down. When we write things down our brains create images and memories. The act of writing also reinforces your goals and keeps your focus. In my opinion, and for these reasons, goal journaling is probably the most important item in this process.

It’s a 4-step process:

  1. Write down the goal
  2. Say it aloud
  3. Read it
  4. Bring in the five senses

Writing down your goal is one of the most important things you can do. I recommend you use a good, old-fashioned journal consisting of paper (not digital) and write down (not type) every day your top goals. The physical act of writing will help you clarify your goals and enable you to remember them better as you continually move toward goal achievement. Studies have shown positive effects of writing that help people learn easier, which can reinforce your goals and help you achieve them. Handwriting is good for your brain. Idea comprehension increases when you write down goals.


Research recently conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews (Dominican University of California) shows that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33 percent more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.

Matthews became interested in the study of procrastination about 10 years ago after reading an article in Fast Company magazine about the “1953 Yale Study of Goals”. The study’s premise — that people who write down specific goals for their future are far more likely to be successful than those who have either unwritten goals or no specific goals at all — has inspired the teachings of many self-help authors and personal coaches.

As Lifehacker mentions, “The research results may seem commonsense or obvious to many of us. If you’re interested in the biology behind the effect of writing on our achievements, here’s a little background: Writing stimulates a bunch of cells at the base of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS acts as a filter for everything your brain needs to process, giving more importance to the stuff that you’re actively focusing on at the moment —something that the physical act of writing brings to the forefront.” In Write It Down, Make It Happen, author Henriette Anne Klauser says, “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: ‘Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail!’ Once you write down a goal, your brain will be working overtime to see you get it, and will alert you to the signs and signals that […] were there all along.”

Another article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 5, 2010, titled “How Handwriting Trains the Brain, said, “Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a ‘spaceship,’ actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called ‘functional’ MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instructions. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and ‘adult-like’ than in those who had simply looked at letters.”

Wendy Bounds also discusses in the WSJ article, “The Fading Art of Handwriting,” that new research shows it can benefit children’s motor skills and their ability to compose ideas and achieve goals throughout life.”

There are many new computer applications that allow you to hand write on your iPad, computer, etc. and convert it to type for those of you who have no interest
 in using a pen and paper. You get the picture, right? My recommendation is to physically write the goals into your journal every day and, as mentioned before, do not look back at the journal-goal entries from the day before. This is very important, because it then reinforces the goal in your mind, and the most important goals will begin to always move to the top of the list while some of the secondary or minor goals will fall off. This is okay!

By Wayne Kurtz

Wayne Kurtz is founder of RaceTwitch.com and Endurance Racing Report,  he has a lifelong passion for racing in various endurance sport races throughout the world. He is also the author of: ‘Beyond the Iron, a training guide for ultra-distance triathlons.’