The Barnum Effect

Harvard Experiment

This is a story that pops up at just about every NLP training or personal development course:

In the 1950’s Harvard Business School approached their graduating students and asked them who had goal for their future. Only about 10% had goals and only 1% had them written down. 20 years later these graduates were approached and each of the 1% who had their goals written down were worth more than the other 99% put together.So it’s clear that if you want success in your life then you had better write down your goals!

There’s one small problem with this story…it never happened!

It was made up in the 1970’s by one of the personal development trainers at the time and it grew into a real myth. There is no record of this ever happening at Harvard or at any other school for that matter. No-one has ever come forwards as one of the 1% or 99%. It is just a nice story that gets people to write down their goals.

The downside though is that recent psychological research has shown that writing down your goals can actually have a negative effect on your motivation and REDUCE the chance of you achieving them! Whoops, perhaps it isn’t such a good story after all.

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