The dangerous myth about goal setting

In 1979 researchers asked Harvard MBA graduates about their goals. 84% had no specific goals, 13% had goals but they weren’t committed to paper. Just 3% had clear, written goals with plans to achieve them.

In 1989, the reviewers interviewed them again and found that the 3% who had goals were earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together!

Incredible right? Just one thing. The study is a lie. It never happened. In fact, you’ll find a version of it that happened at Yale university in 1953. That’s also fiction. Yet there are thousands of references to this “scientific study” on Google. It has been cited by many personal development luminaries including Anthony Robbins and Brian Tracy. Many years ago I spoke about it on one of my audiobooks before a kind listener alerted me to the truth.

Unfortunately the personal growth field has propagated many myths about success. Why? Often the myths contain seeds of truth. Research does show that people with clear, written well-formulated goals tend to be significantly more successful than those without.

Exaggerate that truth with a fictional study and you give me an even more compelling reason to write down my goals. The lie almost seems worth it. The problem is that these exaggerations set us up for disappointment. If I write down my goals and don’t start achieving massive success I may start to think there is something wrong with me and quickly give up. Worse, I may think that writing down goals is the only thing that’s required for success.

There is no doubt that people with written, well formulated goals do better. They also tend to be happier. A life without goals is like playing football with no goal posts. How do you know if you’re winning or losing, getting better or worse?

We need well formulated written goals, but we also need belief, motivation and above all action.

To get all the science-based, goal achievement formulas to maximize your chances of achieving your goals, do The Ultimate Goal Achievement Formula on the XLife Zone.

Not an XLife Member? Become an XLife Member Now.

Live eXceptional!


Justin Cohen
Bestselling author
Speaker Hall of Fame Inductee
TV Show Host & Coach