13 Goal Setting Statistics: Research Studies Facts & Findings

Updated Dec 2, 2022.
Goal Setting Statistics

The power of setting personal goals can work better than the methods and repertoire of consultants, trainers, and motivational speakers. The most successful people constantly set personal goals to change their behavior and get things done. 

So, why can’t you? 

Firstly, most people do not even bother about setting goals. And the few who do often set unrealistic, unachievable, and big goals right from the start. At the same time, setting too easy goals also goes against the principles of goal setting. It turns out there is a science-backed intelligent way to set “right” goals and also achieve them.

Scroll down to discover the latest personal and organizational goal-setting statistics. In particular, learn about groundbreaking scientific techniques used by achievers to achieve their goals and change their behavior.

5 Surprising Statistics Around Goal Setting

  • People with goals are 10x more likely to succeed.
  • People that set actionable tasks and reported the progress to a supportive friend achieved their goals 40% faster than those who had written goals but did not formulate action commitments.
  • Only 16% of low-level employees clearly understand their company’s priorities and goals.
  • 77% of people keep their new year’s pledges for at least one week, but only 19% for up to 2 years.
  • Research suggests that 92% of people do not achieve their goals, and 8% that do achieve them follow a similar pattern for accomplishing their goals.

Why Are Goals Important?

1. People with goals are 10x more likely to succeed. 

(BiggerPockets)

BiggerPocket’s goal-setting statistics highlight that people should not always start by setting new goals. Instead, it would be best if you retrospected — what has worked for you and what hasn’t? 

Be accountable for the goals you did not accomplish, and do not blame someone else for not achieving them. 

At the same time, if you have achieved a goal, evaluate what has worked for you. In addition, visualize other ways to accomplish the goals you have already achieved. 

Moreover, goal setting does not have to be a heat-of-the-moment thing. Get in a positive mood, think it through, and then set the right goals that motivate you. 

2. Goal-setting intervention programs can inspire a person to achieve significant milestones.

(Jordan B Peterson and others)

A goal-setting intervention program conducted by some psychologists at the University of Toronto on unmotivated university students who were struggling and planned to drop out reveals that goal-setting can improve performance at any task. 

Setting specific goals motivates participants to engage in goal-relevant activities and avoid irrelevant activities.

Equally important to note, a person’s sex, age, parent’s income, ethnicity, or previous achievements make no significant difference in achieving big milestones.

Personal Goal Setting
Source : ResearchGate

3. Setting goals with concrete plans can significantly improve your behavior and transform your habits (based on the conclusions of 384 case studies).  

(Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology)

And while you can improve and change your behavior by setting goals, it works when you set optimal and clear goals. 

So, what is an optimal goal? Well, according to the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology publication, an optimal short-term goal or long-term goal should meet at least these criteria:

  • Challenging but achievable goals, not easy, and “do-it-yourself” goals.
  • Set face-to-face with friends or supportive peers. Face-to-face means in-person, not online. However, computerized commitments do work modestly compared to goals set in person with others.   
  • Group goals, given everyone in the group can supervise each other and check in with other group members periodically. 
  • Set clear goals without considering the final result or commitment towards the end result. Instead, you should divide your goals into small tasks and focus on completing small tasks regularly. 

The study also concludes there is empirical evidence that goal setting works best in school or workplace environments. 

What changes can you see in your behavior by setting optimal goals? 

The study reveals you can change your behaviors relating to health, production tasks, and education. 

Goal Setting Statistics: The Importance of Written Goals

4. People with written goals are 42% more likely to succeed than people with unwritten goals.

(Inc., Fast Company)

Inc. points out that a study by Dominican University in California concluded that writing goals increases the chances of accomplishing them by 42%. 

Another significant result was the difference between sharing the goal with someone and keeping it private. 

Dominican University research indicates that some 70% of people who shared their goals with friends or family accomplished the goal. At the same time, only 35% achieved them successfully that kept their unwritten goals to themselves. 

Equally important to note, this study confirms the “mythical and false” Yale University Class of 1953, which was a study promoted by several authors like Zig Ziglar and Anthony Robbins. 

Shared by many motivational authors, the much-popularized Yale Study of 1953 stated that people with written goals were more successful than those without them. However, Fast Company’s 1993 research concluded that “the study was a myth.” 

Dominican University research indicates that writing your goals increases the chances of achieving them. 

5. People that set actionable tasks and reported the progress to a supportive peer achieved their goals 40% faster than those who had written goals but did not formulate action commitments.

(Gail Matthews)

The Dominican University study also concludes that you do not necessarily have to share your goals with others. However, goal setting and success correlate with an action plan and weekly progress reports. 

That is to say, you can be self-accountable and retrospect your progress on a weekly basis to achieve your goals faster. 

In all, Gail Matthews's goal-setting study concludes these tools to achieve goals: 

  • writing goals
  • making your goals specific
  • Set actionable tasks
  • And accountability (to oneself or friends). 
Main Goal Achivement
Source : Dominican

As can be seen in the image, Gail Matthews divided the participants into five groups. 

  • Participants in the first group were asked to refrain from writing their goals and only think about them. 
  • Participants in the second group were asked to write their goals. 
  • Participants in the third group were asked to write their goals and also formulate action plans. 
  • Participants in the fourth group were asked to write their goals, build action plans, and make a commitment to a friend. 
  • Whereas participants in the fifth group were asked to write their goals, make action plans, commit to someone, and track their improvements regularly.   

Groups with goals written down were more successful than those without written goals in Group 1. With each development — making an action plan, commitment to a friend and weekly growth reports — the chances of accomplishing the goals increased. 

And Group 5 — with written goals, action plan, commitment, weekly reports — was even more triumphant in executing their goals. 

Organizational and Employee Goal-Setting Statistics

6. Only 50% of top-level managers can name their organization's top three goals (even when given five tries to identify them).

(London.edu)

And only 16% of low-level employees clearly understand their company’s priorities and goals.

The confusion relating to who does what is more common in organizations that rely on inter-departmental teams. 

London.edu’s organization survey indicates mistrust in cross-department units is common because employees are keener on fulfilling their unit’s administrative tasks.  And they tend to focus less on tasks assigned by executives from other teams.

At the same time, top managers who do not trust their colleagues often take up others’ tasks but lose sight of the company’s priorities. 

And this, according to London.edu’s report, results in confusion, duplication of tasks, and passive affirmations.

So how can top managers be clear about the company objectives (focus on teams and avoid doing the employee’s work) when working with cross-departmental teams? 

London.edu’s study demonstrates that managers who assign transparent tasks to everyone better understand their company’s objectives and goals. 

They tend to use project management software or team management tools to resolve remote teams' alignment and deliver transparent tasks across teams. 

It is essential to note that as much as 40% of executives say alignment within teams is complex, and it is their most significant challenge in executing the organization’s strategy. 

With web-based PM tools and remote team management tools, managers bring everyone under one roof when working across different geographies, leading to clear objectives, avoiding silos, and increasing team trust. 

In addition, businesses should focus on improving employees’ informal and personal networks instead of leaving everything to a formal hierarchy system.  

7. 91% of managers do not trust (or cannot rely upon) peers when working with inter-departmental teams. 

(Harvard Business Review, Forbes)

HBR’s ongoing goal-setting study (on 40+ business experiments) has produced some key statistics relating to team alignment and executing the company’s goals and objectives. 

First, 84% of managers say they can rely on their boss and their direct reports to deliver on promises

So, why do managers fail when it comes to the execution of the company’s goals? Because as much as 91% of managers do not trust (or cannot rely upon) peers when working with inter-departmental teams. 

And this mistrust results in a delay in execution, further creating conflicts between teams, managers, and their employees. 

In addition, the study highlights that mistrust and conflicts can significantly delay in execution of company goals (38% of the time) or might resolve quickly but ineffectually (some 12% of the time). 

In contrast, most of the time, the companies leave the conflict to fester.

Equally important to note, most organizations have a system (like enterprise project management platforms) to handle silos created by cross-functional teams. Still, only 20% of managers say such a system really works. 

So, what can managers do to achieve the company’s goals when working with cross-functional units? 

Well, start by setting performance goals quarterly, not annually. 

According to the Forbes goal research summary, the companies that evaluate their employees achieve their targets 31% quicker than companies that evaluate employees annually.  

Furthermore, managers should learn how to prioritize their tasks and design the proper project lists so that it helps them identify their deliverables, constraints, milestones, and acceptance criteria, among other vital factors.

Additionally, HBR’s statistics suggest companies should focus on quitting unsuccessful ventures quickly (but some 80% of companies fail to do so). 

In addition, only 11% of managers say they have the resources to meet the company’s strategic priorities. 

Harvard Business Study research indicates managers should use reliable resource management software to allocate enough resources to promising ventures and focus less on unpromising ones.

Visualizing Goals Can Boost Confidence Of Individuals and Businesses 

8. 59% of people who visualize their goals feel confident vs. 31% who don’t. 

(TD Bank)

Also, people who visualize their goals happening are happier than those who don’t (73% vs. 50%)

Visualizing your goals happening is a great practice as it also helps people feel less anxiety (only 16% vs. 29% of non-visualizers). 

People who imagine their goals are more successful than those who don't visualize because they use the power of the subconscious mind to engrave their goals.

According to TD Bank’s goal-setting statistics, 6 out of 10 small businesses say visualizing their goals helped them map their budget and other plans ahead, leading to their achievements. 

However, only a tiny percentage of new small businesses visualize their goals or believe in writing them. 

For instance, TD Bank’s statistics highlight — of the new businesses they surveyed — only 20% used a vision board to plan their business journey or write their plans down. 

The good news is that of the small companies that used a vision board and had well-defined goals beforehand, 76% say their business is moving as envisioned and planned; that is, their business efforts are often successful.  

Plus, 8 out of 10 small businesses using time-bound concrete plans, a goal-setting process, and vision boards (from the start) say they have achieved most of their concrete plans way ahead. 

So, as a new business, ensure to use the right project planning tools or Gantt chart software to plan, write, and visualize your business even before starting work processes. 

9. 9 out of 10 people who set specific and sufficiently challenging goals perform better than those who set easy or no goals.  

(Locke and Latham)

According to Locke and Latham’s goal-setting study, goal-setting can improve performance if you have sufficient ability to accomplish the goals. 

Plus, you should prioritize receiving regular feedback, rewards, and support from others. 

Another factor for motivation when trying to accomplish life or challenging goals is acceptance of your goals.

The study included diverse participants, indicating factors like age, income, education, gender, and ethnicity did not make a difference.

However, the need for achievement and self-esteem are the most prominent individual variables that affect performance and decide whether you accomplish the challenging goals.  

Another essential point to note from Locke and Latham’s goal-setting study is less educated people perform better when they set and write goals for themselves. 

People with 12 years or more of education perform better regardless of whether it is self-set goals or assigned by someone else.

Lockes Goal Setting Theory
Source : StuDocu

Goal Setting and Success: New Year’s Resolutions

10. 77% of people keep their new year’s pledges for at least one week, but only 19% for up to 2 years.

(National Library of Medicine)

People set new year’s resolutions because the new year serves as a cyclical marker of time; physiologically, punctuations in time are where we reevaluate ourselves. 

Be that as it may, a 1988 new year’s resolution study indicates that “only 55% of people keep their new year’s pledges after one month, 43% after three months, and 19% after two years.” 

The triumphant participants indicate that stimulus control, willpower, and reinforcements are necessary to honor their pledges forever. 

But even the successful group experienced at least one slip. As defined by the study, slips happen because of a lack of personal control, negative emotion, and stress. 

  • The study reveals as much as 53% of participants from the successful group experienced at least one slip. 
  • And the average number of slips made by the successful group participants over two years was 14. 

Furthermore, the study reveals that social support did not play any part in the first six months, but it was a determining factor after six months. The same was true for interpersonal strategies.

11. People that keep their new year’s resolutions ensure their experience is positive.

(National Library of Medicine, Statista)

When you look at the most common new year’s resolution, the Statista survey indicates:

  • 5 in 10 people set new year’s resolutions of losing weight and eating healthier.
  • 4 in 10 people plan on losing weight.

That is to say — most people want to make their lifestyle healthy. However, the National Library of Medicine survey indicates that people looking for healthy lifestyles often break their patterns by mid-February.

According to its survey, most people fail because of stress and not making their activities fun. 

In contrast, people who keep their new year’s resolutions ensure they are getting immediate rewards. 

Furthermore, here are the things you can do to maintain a new lifestyle: 

  • Break life or big goals into mini-goals and ensure to accomplish them. Do not focus on the big picture. 
  • Explore new activities you might enjoy, like swimming, and hiking, instead of going to the gym or running (— if you do not like them).
  • Get more sleep. (Follow the principles of getting good sleep, like less lighting 3-4 hours before bed, no caffeine, and so on). 
  • Take your time, but do your activities regularly—the same stands for eating healthier (do not break your commitments). 

That said, here are the most common new year’s resolutions:

Top US New Year Resolutions for 2022
Source : Statista

Regardless of your resolution or goal, ensure they qualify as “smart goals,” divide your goals into mini-goals, accomplish the specific goals on a weekly basis, and do not focus on the big picture. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, you do not need the motivation to achieve your goals. Instead, you should make them a positive experience and focus on “being happy” to achieve them.

Greater Understanding of People’s Mindset Towards Goal Setting

12. 80% of people don’t set goals for themselves.

(MindTools)

Yes, as much as 80% of the population do not know what they want from their life. As a result, they do not set any real-life goals. 

According to MindTools’ goal-setting research, many people don’t set life or long-term goals because they do not want to start a journey since they have no real idea about their destination. 

And MindTool’s goal-setting research points out that this thinking is wrong. 

Instead, people should start setting life goals regardless of whether they have a clear picture of goal achievement or not, given you can change your destination mid-process once you have a clear idea. 

In addition, its research points out that people should brainstorm ideas and set plans covering all major areas of their life. For instance: 

  • You can think about your career and what you want to do (now), then create a set of mini-goals and achieve them while retrospecting your progress weekly or monthly. 

Follow the same goal-setting approach towards educational goals, financial goals, attitude goals (something that you want to change), health, physical goals, artistic, and family goals. 

But ensure all your plans qualify as a SMART goal: 

  • S – Make your goals Specific (or Significant).
  • M – Measurable (or Meaningful) as it gives you more chances to accomplish them.
  • A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented).
  • R – Relevant (or Rewarding).
  • T – Time-bound (or Trackable) for further motivation.

Create to-do lists (there are numerous to-do list apps and daily planners for businesses and individuals you can choose from) and ensure that you meet your daily goals. 

Smart Goals
Source : Freepik

Goal Setting: Why Do People Fail?

13. Research suggests that 92% of people do not achieve their goals.

(Inc., ReliablePlant)

So, why exactly do many people fail to achieve their goals? 

ReliablePlant’s goal-setting research highlights people fail because of a lack of commitment, settings easy goals, inactivity, and fear of success/failure. 

In addition, according to a study conducted by ReliablePlant, many people have what the psychological literature calls “analysis paralysis.” 

That is to say, they let doubts paralyze their progress, and they don’t want to move unless they have answers to every “what if” scenario. (As mentioned earlier, start with your goals instead of thinking about the end result). 

So, how do the 8% achieve them?

Inc. points out that a study conducted by the University of Scranton has figured out the pattern of goal achievers. The research results can help you break the cycle of unsuccessful goal-setting and become successful goal-setters (by using science-backed methods).

Here are the goals:  

  • First, set specific and challenging goals. (Not too easy, yet achievable).
  • Second, be passionate about your plans. Ask yourself how badly you want it. 
  • Third, track progress, review the shortcomings (to get feedback), and boost your self-motivation.
  • Fourth, commit and rely on someone supportive. 
  • Fifth, take one step at a time (avoid focusing on too many things and getting them done simultaneously). 
DId You Know
Source : Pinterest

Goal Success Requires Positive Thinking, a Good Retrospection Process, and a Strong Commitment 

Taking a little time to learn about goal setting can go a long way and help you break the cycle of not achieving your goals. 

And while this guide does help you understand what works and what doesn’t, I strongly recommend you go through science and research-backed journals, research papers, and books on goal setting and dig deeper.

Because once you understand how to set and write your life goals, you can commit to them. And figure out what you can do to achieve them, and why you repeatedly recommit to the same goal without ever accomplishing them. Only then can you make the goal-setting process work for you and succeed faster and more efficiently. As a result, get the most out of your business, your team, and yourself.

Sources

  1. BiggerPockets
  2. Jordan B Peterson and Others Research
  3. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
  4. Inc.
  5. Fast Company
  6. Gail Matthews (Dominican University)
  7. London.edu
  8. Forbes
  9. Harvard Business Review
  10. Locke and Latham
  11. TD Bank
  12. Inc.
  13. ReliablePlant
  14. National Library of Medicine, Statista

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.