Motivation Articles

Goals that Help, Goals that Hurt

Remember to Think Positive


It all starts with the words.

The great thing about having the capacity for language is that we can use words to help ourselves want what it is best for us to have.

Framing your goals in positive terms makes reaching them that much easier. Positive words allow you to:
  • Focus on what you really want, and on what is helpful and achievable. This creates positive energy and momentum instead of feelings of deprivation and resentment.
  • Adjust your plans when you have the inevitable slip-up or bad day. Instead of giving up when you mess up, you can make small changes to balance things out.
  • Check in with yourself before you act. Ask yourself if what you are about to eat will help you reach your goals.
  • Have true freedom of choice, rather than forcing yourself to rely on will power alone. We just aren’t designed to white-knuckle our way through life, always resisting what we think we really want.
So, go through your goals with a fine-toothed comb, and make sure they are positive. Focus on what you DO want to eat and what you WILL accomplish—not just on how many pounds you want to lose. Keep track of your calories as a necessary tactical measure, but don’t confuse going over on any given day with "failure." There’s more going on than what happens on any single day, and well-framed goals can help you keep that in view.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

    It's a great article.I can use positive words so I can think that way.And can set my goals accordingly. Thanks a lot. - 3/13/2015 7:39:58 PM
  • I try not to set a goal that is worded like "Lose 25 pounds." That's not a goal, in my opinion: that is a result.

    The goals I set are behaviors that will help me achieve the desired result. My goals, therefore, are actions I can choose to do everyday, and I try to frame them positively as something to DO, not something to give up.

    For example, If I aim to eat 5 fruits and veggie servings a day and so many grams of protein within a certain calorie total, by focusing on how to do that, I don't have room left in my daily calories for ice cream and french fries. Aiming to drink 8 glasses of water, and walking so many miles, steps, or minutes, are also goals. Those are positively worded goals that either I do, or do not. It takes the focus off the numbers on the scale, and I can log my actions (foods consumed, exercise) and feel good for my efforts. Eventually, with consistency and time, the efforts will yield results.

    So it's not about what I'm giving up, but I am adding to my diet, routine, and life.

    I also go over my daily calorie limit about once a week, but I makes sure to compensate on the other days and increase exercise. I look at calories consumed and burned for the week, not just each day. Even not gaining for a week or two, is progress - because I'm not losing ground in the journey to my result. - 3/13/2015 12:45:45 PM
  • I agree with most of this, but I don't think all negative goals are bad. I mean, most of us are here to LOSE weight. We just need to remind ourselves what we GAIN by doing so. Also, I benefited a lot from saying no to soda. - 3/13/2015 11:37:00 AM
    I loved this article. This is my "diet persona" to a "T"! Start out perfect for a week, then cave and eat something unhealthy and use it as my excuse to "quit" for the day. Then the day turns into a ruined week, etc., etc. It has been my downfall even after losing 10 pounds! I go on a vacation and start out eating healthy in restaurants, but by the end of the trip eating just like I used to. A trip has always been the precipitous to putting the weight back on. I'm going to review my goals and quit being so hard on myself for mistakes! - 1/19/2015 9:18:12 AM
  • I don't agree with the first part of the article on those who are successful pursue their goals "vigorously". I have had a lot of success with (1) Eating only when I am hungry, and (2) Eating only till satisfied. Those are the main guidelines of my weight loss, and it hasn't taken a vigorous type of behavior to maintain them. It takes persistence and focus, but in no way would I call it vigorous. (This type of approach to eating came from the Spark radio host who lost 65 pounds, and kept them off.) - 2/18/2014 2:55:29 AM
  • Love this reminder!
    New goals: Be sexy. Be Powerful. Have Fun. Be Authentic. - 5/4/2013 7:02:45 PM
  • I try to stay positive of my goals because if I don't I will really take a great big set back. If I don't feel like doing 4 miles I will keep going because I feel guilty if I don't. Yesterday my hubby walked with me and I had to push him to do three miles but guess what I still did my four miles. WooHoo - 5/4/2013 10:58:52 AM
  • My personal inspiration is to keep my eye on the prize. I'm all IN. I am taking the first steps to make a comprehensive lifestyle change. That's what it's about...Being ALL IN! - 2/11/2013 10:39:58 AM
    Keeping goals positive makes great sense. However, in my opinion, there is too much dogma associated with removal of specific food or food groups from a nutrition plan. The whole "denial means failure" chant is just not true. Sometimes it is exactly the right thing to do. I was at the mercy of my cravings until I gave up sugar and wheat. I now know that denying myself these addictive substances was a trivial price to pay for the weight loss success and improved fitness that resulted. After only a short time it was no longer a problem.

    This is not the answer for everyone but it is powerful for some of us. I wish these articles were not so dogmatic on the subject. - 1/2/2013 7:29:27 AM
  • Thank you for this article. I took a good long look at my goals and I need to rewrite them in a positive manner. This was just the step I needed today for helping me to look at what I want and need to accomplish. - 10/23/2012 9:26:08 AM
    My goal is to get and stay healthier. I need to keep the lifestyle changes to do that.
    - 10/4/2012 8:16:02 PM
    It helps to hear other peoples struggles. I know I am not alone. - 10/4/2012 8:14:47 PM
  • One of my goals I sat up was to lose 50 by March, But I also think it may be unrealistic, and I will be happy to lose half that, therefore I will not feel I had failed. One of the other goals was to drink 8 glasses of water a day . I have accomplished that. Personally for me if I have more that one goal and accomplished at least one than I am a winner. Drinking water was a big one for me, for in a good day I might of drank one. - 9/29/2012 9:43:53 AM
  • Great article on the power of words. @PMCCALL, I think instead of focusing on LOOSING, you can say I WILL LIVE HEALTHY, make healthy choices on daily basis, do workouts that gives me fun and makes me enjoy myself, the list is endless. You will realize that the scale dropping will be a benefit of all the above steps. Good luck - 6/16/2012 1:26:12 AM
  • PMCCALL4495
    OK, but what if your goal IS to LOSE 25 pounds? How do you couch that as a positive goal without using the word "lose?" - 1/3/2012 2:12:05 PM

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