Answered By: Colleen Bryant
Last Updated: Jan 15, 2016     Views: 4735

I think you are referring to the "Harvard Goals Study," reports of which periodically surface in motivational literature. We have been asked repeatedly about this research, but we have never been able to find such a study.  It is frequently cited as having transpired at Yale, but  librarians there have not found a trace either.  (See http://faq.library.yale.edu/recordDetail?id=7508&action=&library=yale_business&institution=Yale)  Consequently, we conclude that it is an urban legend.

The magazine Fast Company published an article about the alleged Yale study: "If Your Goal is Success, Don't Consult These Gurus"

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/06/cdu.html

Sid Savara, a motivational speaker, published this on his blog: "The Harvard Written Goal Study: Fact or Fiction?"

http://sidsavara.com/personal-productivity/fact-or-fiction-the-truth-about-the-harvard-written-goal-study

Savara refers to Gail Matthews, a clinical psychologist at Dominican University in California who has conducted research on goals. As far as we know, her results have not been published. You can read a summary of her study here.

Some sources may trace the story about the Harvard study to the book What They Don’t Teach You in Harvard Business School, by Mark McCormack. But McCormack’s book does not reference the study.

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