Jan 102007

How many times have you set yourself a goal to improve your health, only to see it fade into oblivion, like a boat dragging its anchor and drifting out to sea?

If you want your goal to stay with you, like the boat, it needs to be well-anchored in the first place. The anchor for your goal lies in the way you word it.

You may be thinking that wording your goal is the easy bit: you know you want to ‘stop smoking’, or ‘be able to raise your arm above your head’, or ‘get rid of your fear about giving presentations’.

Well, it is easy, so long as you avoid the pitfalls that can cause your goal to drift away from you.

Take Jane’s goal “I want to stop smoking by the end of the month”. She writes it out on stickies and posts them on the fridge, the bathroom mirror and her computer. Several times a day she notices the stickies and reminds herself: “I want to stop smoking by the end of the month”.

But Jane gets frustrated, because whenever she’s anxious the draw of the cigarette is still as strong as ever. Eventually the stickies drop off, she thinks “this isn’t working” and bins them.

How could Jane have worded her goal more effectively? Find out in the keys below.

Keys to anchoring your goal

1. Start with ‘I’

“I want to stop smoking by the end of the month”.

Jane was OK here, her goal started with “I”.

However, the goal ‘Stop smoking by the end of the month’ would be impersonal.

You need to take ownership of your goal, and the easiest way to do this is to start it with “I”.

2. Bring your goal into the present

“I want to stop smoking by the end of the month”.

Jane’s goal is like a rolling programme – the end of the month is always in the distance, so she’s never going to get there.

She needs to word her goal as if she’s already achieved it, for example it would be better (but still not perfect) as:
“I am a non-smoker”
So her message to herself and to the universe is that she’s already achieved the result she wants.

Jane also removed the word ‘want’ from her goal. As long as you ‘want’ something it’s always out of reach, so to bring your goal close avoid ‘want’, ‘like to’, ‘will’, and word it so it’s already achieved.

Muhammed Ali repeatedly said “I am the greatest”, long before he achieved his goal. If he’d said “I want to be the greatest” he’d probably never have got there.

There’s still a problem with Jane’s goal though…

3. Be positive

“I am a non-smoker.”

The phrase “non-smoker” includes a negative, and the brain does not pick up on negatives – it still creates an image of ‘smoking’. And whatever image it creates Jane will attract to herself.

Jane needs to restate that part of her goal in a more positive way with no mention of smoking. Instead her goal needs to specify the positive outcome for her, for example:

“I easily allow myself to relax.”
“I cope easily with my full range of emotions.”

4. Focus on the result, not the method

If Jane thought that deep breathing would help her get over her anxiety instead of smoking, she might word her goal:
“I easily allow myself to breathe more deeply.”

This goal would certainly help her to breathe more deeply, but it might not help with giving up smoking. So it’s better for her to focus on the result she wants to achieve – we’ll assume it’s to be more relaxed.

“I easily allow myself to relax” keeps Jane open to other ways to relax besides through deep breathing.


Here are some sample goals, which may give you more ideas.

I allow myself to achieve and maintain my ideal weight.
I can lift my arm above my head to touch my ear.
I easily sleep through the night.
I have a harmonious and joyful relationship with my aunt.

How to attract your goal? That’s another story; watch out for it in a future article. Meanwhile simply sayiing your goal to yourself as a daily affirmation will start the process.

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