Phrase them positively
When you’re setting yourself a goal, it’s important to phrase it positively. To state what you do want rather than what you don’t. There is a lot of complex neuroscience as to why this is important but, in a nutshell, it’s this: what you give your energy and thought to is what you get more of.
Check out the difference between:
- I don’t want to feel miserable anymore, and
- I want be slim, fit and healthy.
The first one is phrased negatively. It describes what I don’t want. The way our minds work is this: if I’m thinking about not being miserable any more, I have to conjure up the concept of miserable before I can think about not being miserable. Our minds don’t process negatives very well.
If I told you to not, under any circumstances, think about a field full of flowers, your mind will create a field full of flowers for you not to think about.
So, if I’m focused on not being miserable, I’m likely to create the misery I’m trying to avoid.
It’s much better to think about what we do want to have happen instead. The second goal is phrased positively and is about what I want. If I’m thinking about being slim, fit and healthy, if I’m picturing what that’s like and if that’s where I’m putting my thoughts and energy then that’s the reality I’m more likely to create.
Saying “I want to be an understanding boyfriend” is better than saying “I don’t want to feel impatient with my partner”. Creating the concept of an understanding boyfriend and putting your energy into that is one step closer to getting there.
Saying “I want to feel confident and calm when I do my presentation” is better than saying “I don’t want to feel nervous and go blank when I’m doing my presentation”. Creating the concept of being confident and calm and focusing on that instead of feeling nervous and going blank is more likely to make it happen.
There are three easy steps to phrasing your goal positively:
- Decide what your goal is. Ask yourself “What would I like to have happen?” and write it down, type it out or record it in some way;
- Check it to see if it’s phrased negatively or positively. If it contains not, don’t want, I’m sick of or other negatives or if it contains a reference to the thing you’re trying to avoid or move away from, then it’s phrased negatively. If it describes what you do want to have happen, how you’re going to be when you’ve reached your goal or how you want to be, then it’s phrased positively. If it’s phrased negatively;
- Ask yourself, the question “And when …(the thing I don’t want)… what would I like to have happen instead?”
Here’s an example.
- Q. What would I like to have happen? A. I don’t want to dread going into work anymore.
- Check your response: I don’t want to dread going into work anymore is about what I don’t want and is therefore phrased negatively. I need to go to step 3.
- Q. And when I’m dreading going into work, what do I want to have happen instead? A. I want to look forward to going into work.
By learning to phrase your goals positively, you put your energy and mindset into the right place from the start. You give your mind a head start by helping it to tune into the thing you want and stand a much better chance of making it happen. Remember that what you pay attention to is what you get more of so make sure that, instead of paying attention to the things you don't want, you're paying attention to the things you do.