Do You Make This Mistake Phrasing Your Goals?

Many people put a lot of focus on their goals (and they should).

But one mistake that people make is phrasing their goals in the negative.

Probably the most common way that I see people phrase their goals goes something like this:

“I’m going to stop smoking.” 

“I’m going to lose weight.”

When you phrase your goals like that, you’re never going to be able to stop smoking or lose weight.

Like A Chimney

Let’s take a look at “stopping smoking.”

You may not have known this, but…

I used to smoke like a fricking chimney.

I smoked two and a half packs of Marlboro Reds every day.

I tried to quit smoking at least 10 different times but couldn’t.

Why not?

The problem was that I was focusing on “quitting smoking.” 

When you focus on “quitting smoking,” what topic are you thinking about?



Because your subconscious cannot tell the difference between what you want and what you don’t want. 

All it knows is that you’re focusing on something, so it’s going to take you there.

If you’re focusing on NOT smoking, you’re going to get MORE smoking.

If you’re focusing on LOSING those 50 pounds, they’re going to stick around.

Because all you’re really doing is focusing on smoking and weight.

How Did I Quit?

When I finally was able to stop smoking, it was because I changed my focus from “quit smoking” to: 

  • Breathing fully;
  • How easily I was breathing; 
  • Eating healthy;
  • Getting into better shape.

As soon as I made that switch in FOCUS, I was able to quit because I didn’t see myself as a smoker anymore.

I literally changed my identity from smoker to someone healthy and breathing freely.

The same thing happened when I kept trying to lose weight but couldn’t. 

I was focusing on,

“Hey, I’m 256 pounds. I need to lose 50 pounds.”

When I stopped focusing on that and started saying, 

“I’m living at my ideal weight of 200 pounds.”

Those 50 pounds disappeared.

The Present Positive

When it comes to the phrasing you use with your goals and outcomes, I’ve learned that you should state them in the present and in the positive.

Let’s take a look at some examples in the 3 core areas of your life:  health, wealth, and relationships.


The wrong way to phrase it:

“I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

A better way to phrase it:

“I’m living at my optimal weight of 190 pounds and feeling wonderful every day.”


If you were to say that my resolution is:

“I’m going to stop fighting with my wife.”

All you’re going to get is MORE fighting with your wife.

Instead, you should say it as:

“I live in harmony and a loving relationship with my wife every single day.”


It’s easy to see this goal is in the negative:

“I’m sick and tired of not being able to pay my bills.”

But sometimes we trick ourselves into false positives with goals like:

“I’m going to get rich this year.”

That’s still in the negative because it infers that you are poor now.

Instead, you can phrase it as:

“I live and grow in financial abundance every day.”

These are much better ways to state your outcomes.


Now, your conscious mind might be saying, 

“Jim, I’m lying to myself if I say… 

 ‘I’m living in total financial abundance.’

When, IN FACT, I am… 

 ‘Sick and tired of not being able to pay my freaking bills.'”

I don’t think you are lying to yourself… 

But it doesn’t really matter because what I’m telling you here works.

If you keep saying over and over,

“I’m sick and tired of not being able to pay my bills.”

“I’m sick and tired of struggling to pay my bills.”

“I’m sick and tired of barely being able to pay my bills.”

Whatever you’re sick and tired of, you are causing that to be charged with emotion.

So your subconscious is going to attract whatever you’re focusing on, and that’s all you’re ever going to get.

You have to flip it and say something like,

“I’m living in total financial abundance.”

When you phrase it in the positive and the present, that’s when you can make a change.

As far as whether this works or not, a wise person said,

“You don’t have to believe that it works for it to work.”

Where Can I Find Out More?

There’s a book called Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn that helped me understand this, and I encourage all of you to get it.

(I’m not gonna put my affiliate link in here.) 

I first read that book about 16 years ago and have read it a bunch of times since.

It talks about vibration, and it can get a little “woo woo,” but I thought it was really, really good.

It was that book that finally got through to me about…

“Your focus and your feelings are the core of what you actually get in life.”


You should consistently create goals in each area of your life, like health, wealth, and relationships. But be sure to phrase your goals around what you want, NOT around what you want to get rid of. And then phrase them in the present.

This is the kind of thing that everybody’s got an opinion about, and it’s not as easy to explain as you’d hope, since it’s more about feeling than anything else.

So, when you’re putting together your outcomes and your goals, ask yourself these questions:

  • How am I phrasing this?
  • What am I actually focusing on?
  • Even if I’m stating my goals in such a way that it seems like I’m focusing on the positive, am I actually focusing on the negative?

Did you know I post cool tips like these every day? Check out The Sales Copywriting and Content Marketing Hacks group to learn more!

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  • Judy

    Reply Reply May 6, 2020

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for the great advice. This article reminds me to keep my thoughts positive.
    Years ago, I would listen to your weekly show about marketing advice. On one episode you spoke about visualizing at bedtime what you wanted as if it had already happened.
    Before I went to sleep, I would see myself driving in a red car up to my driveway and seeing a red barn in the pasture.
    Now, 5 years later there is a red barn where I visualized it. It took several years to build it in stages, but it happened.

  • BadBoyMike

    Reply Reply May 6, 2020

    Brilliant! Looking for that book you mentioned on Amazon right now…
    The reason I like this article in particular, is that it explains a very common issue, but in another way. Which is easier for me to understand.
    Other “gurus” explain the same things but in different ways. And a lot of the time you just don’t understand what the heck they are trying to tell you?
    If someone doesn’t understand something, then it isn’t made simple enough.
    I suppose there are any number of ways to tell the same story, but you have to hit it from as many angles and perspectives as you can! Any of that make sense???
    Try this:
    In 1953, molecular biologists James Watson and Francis Crick introduced the world to the double-helix DNA structure, the so-called secret of life, widely considered the most important scientific discovery of the twentieth century. The presentation earned Watson and Crick the Nobel Prize. And what is most striking about this accomplishment is that the full presentation takes just five minutes to read aloud. That’s the complete presentation—introducing the secret of life, explaining it in detail, and showing how it works. Pause and consider this for a moment: The most important scientific discovery of the twentieth century can be pitched in five minutes. Yet nearly every pitch that I’ve seen—and I see hundreds every year—takes at least 45 minutes and usually an hour, a ridiculous amount of time! No

    Klaff, Oren. Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal (Business Skills and Development) (p. 95). McGraw-Hill Education. Kindle Edition.

  • Virginia Reeves

    Reply Reply May 6, 2020

    Jim – good reminder to phrase your statements in a positive manner. One I see too often is: “Don’t Forget”. Instead say: “Remember to..”. When we choose to live more affirmatively, our mind, body, and emotions are easier to adjust to that state of being.

  • Yvonne A Jones

    Reply Reply May 7, 2020

    The ability for our mind to understand what we really want is dependent on how we phrase our words…our desired outcomes. It’s a theory I’m familiar with, yet the way you explained it, Jim, made it simple and easy to understand. Thank you.

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