Goal Setting Tips: The 3 P’s of Goal Setting

Have you ever written a list of goals (such as New Years Resolutions) and not achieved them?  I know I sure have!  I (like I am sure many others) set out with the best of intentions when setting goals but could not seem to achieve them. I am very happy to have reached a lot of the goals I set for myself during 2012.

What did I do differently in 2012? Even though I knew how to write “S.M.A.R.T.” goals, there are two more techniques I have learned over the past two years which I have added to my goal setting:  the “Three P’s of Goal Setting” and “Positive Affirmations” (which I will save for another post).  Writing goals can be a self-defeating task if they are not written correctly.  I feel these two techniques have polished off my goal setting and in turn, helped ensure I achieve my goals.

The 3 P’s of Goal Setting are:  Positive, Present and Personal

Setting Positive Goals:

“The power of positive thinking.”  We have all heard this but what does it mean and how does it even work.

Positive thinking really does change your brain. Not in some magical, woo woo kind of way, but in a real physical way.
Read more at How Positive Thinking Re-Wires Your Brain

The brain does not know the difference between right and wrong and does not interpret negative words.  Setting a goal of, “I will not eat junk food” in the brain translates to “I will not eat junk food.”

One of the tenets of Neurolinguistics is that the brain does not automatically process negatives. This is to say that any statements that include the word don’t or prefixes such as un or non are initially (subconsciously) processed in the positive. This is because in order to affix meaning, the brain must associate something with the words spoken.
Read more at Don’t Think of a Pink Elephant

Here are a few examples of re-wording goals into positive goals:

  • “I won’t yell at my child”  I speak to my child with a calm voice.
  • “I won’t neglect my blog”  I write blog posts on a regular basis.
  • “I won’t eat junk food”  I make and eat healthy food choices.

Another way to keep your goals positive, is to ensure that they are not “wishy washy”.  You want to ensure you do not use words such as:  should, will, probably, might or may.  This tells the brain that they are not important and can be put off until later.

Setting Goals in Present Tense:

One of the best lessons in life that I learned over a decade ago, was that we cannot make the future happen right now and we cannot go back and change the past.  All we can do is live in the present.  If you are setting goals for yourself, I would assume that they are goals you are wanting to work on now.  So why not write them that way?  Bearing in mind that larger goals should be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces:  it takes more than one class to complete a degree and within each class, you need to put in the effort to pass the class.

Your brain takes the path of least resistance.  If your goals are written in the future tense, the brain knows it can be postponed until later because it is not a priority.  By setting the goal this way, the brain starts looking for ways to get you to your goal right away.

The powerhouse of enriched learning is the subconscious mind. It is highly literal, has no concept of time, and processes in images. If you use future tenses, such as “I will…,” then the subconscious mind will not act on it since it only operates in the NOW.
Read more on Brain-Compatible Goal Setting

Another benefit of writing goals in the present tense, is that we see ourselves as having succeeded in reaching that goal.  Although it seems odd to word it in such a manner, it is a bit of trickery for the brain to actually set the goal as a priority which will help you to become successful in reaching that goal. Here are a few examples of re-wording goals in the present tense:

  • “I want to earn $50,000 per year”  I earn $50,000 per year.
  • “I will start exercising”  I walk for 30 minutes per day, 3 times per week.
  • “I will be 145 pounds”  I am 145 pounds.

By writing your goals in a frame that already has you succeeding, you are already building confidence about your future which helps you in reaching those goals.

Writing Personal Goals:

When you write your goals, use the first person by using “I” rather then “my”.  By using “I”, you are further submitting an order to your subconscious which will start working on the goal immediately.

Goal setting needs to be personal to you and for yourself – not somebody else!  This includes setting goals that are within your control:

Set performance goals, not outcome goals – You should take care to set goals over which you have as much control as possible. It can be quite dispiriting to fail to achieve a personal goal for reasons beyond your control!
In business, these reasons could be bad business environments or unexpected effects of government policy. In sport, they could include poor judging, bad weather, injury, or just plain bad luck.
If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals, and draw satisfaction from them.
Read more on Personal Goal Setting

For me, it seems silly to state that goals should be personal.  But I have to step back from the work I have myself done over the years and realize that this may be a major component not only in goal setting but in making major life changes for some people.  A few examples of re-writing goals to make them personal:

  • “We will achieve our sales targets”  I achieve my sales goals.
  • “I will meet the wo/man of my dreams”  I accept and attract healthy love into my life.
  • “My bank account will have more money”  I have abundant finances.

When writing goals, we need to ensure that we are not setting ourselves up for failure.  One of the easiest ways to set ourselves up for failure, is by placing the power to achieve them in the hands of someone else.


When writing your goals, be sure to ensure they are:  Positive, Personal and in the Present tense.  The “Three P’s of Goal Setting” and writing “S.M.A.R.T.” goals are both important aspects of goal writing.  There are other aspects that you can apply to your life to help you become successful and manifest what you want to bring into your life which I am featuring in an upcoming series on “Making Positive Changes in Your Life”.

As I sit here writing the conclusion to this post (which I have been working on since September), I am reminded of another important aspect that also helped me to become successful in achieving my goals: mindset.  Yet another topic I will need to write in another post.

Do you write goals?  What successes and failures have you had with them?  Do you already use this technique but still fail to achieve your goals?

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