Psychological Trigger | Write It Down, Pass It Around

  • Posted May 31, 2012

Do you or someone you know struggle with will power? Do they commit themselves to shedding fat off of their frame only to be sidetracked a few weeks later? Or do they try to kick the habit of smoking, only for you to catch them lighting one up (only when drinking, of course)? Well, a simple psychological trigger can help achieve goals.

list | Psychological Trigger | Write Down Goals |

Write it down, and then pass it around.

I know, I can feel the doubters already moving the mouse to click this post away, but this simple, seldom-used psychological trigger has been scientifically proven to work.

When you write down whatever is your goal, you consciously commit yourself to it. Just letting it be as a passing thought does not have the same impact. You need to write it down or you will be less likely to hold yourself accountable. Also keep in mind that when writing your goals to be as specific as possible.  Instead of “lose weight” it should say “lose x pounds” or ‘lose x% body fat.”

It doesn’t end there though. If you repeatedly write down that same goal, the chances of success climb even higher. By continually writing down the goal, you end up training your subconscious to be dedicated to seeing through its completion. With a constant reminder, the subconscious will be trained to work and find ways to accomplish the goal.

However, to really maximize this psychological trigger tactic, you NEED to pass it around. The more people that know about your goal the better. This is uncomfortable for many, but it is the easiest way to enact ultimate accountability. People hate failure. Most people are scared of failure, or what others may think. Putting yourself on the line and making your plans public leave you with no option but to succeed.

This day and age, there is no reason not to take full advantage of this psychological trigger. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, sharing your goals with others has never been easier. One can reach hundreds of friends and family with one post on facebook.



Seriously, a psychological trigger is not some sort of ‘mickey mouse’ idea. Psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini has written on this very subject in his book Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition). He gives a common sense explanation for the effectiveness of this tactic by saying it has to do with consistency.

When someone publicly makes a goal or takes a stand,  they are much more driven to see it through so as to appear consistent to others.  Who wants to be viewed as “fickle, uncertain, pliant, scatterbrained, or unstable?” Instead, as Dr. Cialdini points out, maintaining your consistency and being labelled as “rational, assured, trustworthy, and sound” is much more desirable. So how about some proof….In Influence, Dr. Cialdini references an experiment done in 1955 by psychologists Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard.

Summary of the experiment:

  • 3 samples of students estimated the length of lines they were shown.
  • One sample of students committed to their guess by writing it down, signing it, and turning it into the experimenter.
  • The Second group commited to their guess by writing it down on erase board, then erasing it so only they knew what they wrote.
  • The Third Group didn’t commit at all, but only kept their guess to themselves.
  • With the  3 different samples (public commitment, private commitment, no commitment), Gerard and Deutsch could then see which group would more likely stick with their first guess upon receiving new information.
  • After receiving new evidence, and being led to believe their first estimate may have been wrong, all of the students were then allowed to change their initial estimates.


  • The students who didn’t commit were the least loyal to their first decision. The new information influenced them more than their first estimate.
  • The students who wrote their answer, and then erased it, were much less willing to change their first answer. Even though it wasn’t public, the simple act of writing it for themselves helped them reject the new information and stay consistent.
  • Lastly, it was revealed that the ‘public commitment’ group mostly refused to change their position no matter what the new information revealed. They were left stubborn because of their public commitment.

robert caldini | Psychological Trigger | Write Down Goals | Cialdini’s Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition) is full of useful info and it is recommended you check it out.)


Of course, these results were predictable, right? Well, if this result was so predictable, why don’t we use the psychological trigger tactic all of the time?

Making your plans and goals public increases your chances of sticking with them. Further, the more public they are, the more likely you will be to see them through. Sharing with the same 3 people, who already know how ‘fickle’ you are, won’t do much in motivating you (but not you though, we’re talking about that person you know, right?).



The ‘pass it around’ part of your psychological trigger is the hardest yet most rewarding. Here, the quality of your support team and network can determine your success.

Using ‘fat loss’ as an example:

Ah, you can see it now. The trembling of posting that picture of yourself online…..with your stomach hanging over your belt. The humiliation of admitting to everyone how far you’ve fallen. The fear of people laughing at you.

Huh? You don’t want to be laughed at? You have negative friends? Then lose them because they aren’t your friends. If they are negative when you are trying to improve yourself then they are just roadblocks between you and your destination. Those aren’t friends, those are acquaintance’s of the person who was too scared to try this before, avoid them like the plague.

Now can you see it? The feedback from your (real) friends. The support and encouragement. Maybe even the tools (workouts, diets) they give you to help you achieve your desired weight. Why would you not share your goals with others? The reward of success far outweighs (pun intended) the temporary humiliation of failure. | King Goal | Psychological Trigger |

Reaching Goals Is Fun | Photo: Ross D. Franklin


This seems like a no brainer, yet how many people have shared their goals with you? You could probably count them on one hand. What a waste of a resource. By letting people know where you are going, the chances that you’ll get there improve greatly. Self-accountability, accountability from them, encouragement, support, resources, all of these things you otherwise would not have had.


Or you (er, that person you know) can just dismiss this proven psychological trigger and continue what you’ve been doing, the choice is 100% yours.