If you’re reading this, I know you want to lose weight. And I know that you’ve probably spent years trying to do it.
I also know that you have goals like eating healthier and working out consistently – goals that are essential to making your weight-loss dream a reality.
And there’s one more thing I know that you may not: The way you’re talking about these goals is probably keeping you from achieving them.
All the best intentions in the world and the hardest work you could ever do aren’t enough to override the power of your words. And the words you’re using right now almost certainly aren’t consistent with your success.
Let me explain.
How Your Words Determine Your Results
How often do you hear yourself saying things like, “I need to work out more,” “I’m going to eat more fruits and vegetables,” or “I really need to stop eating sweets”?
A lot, right?
The problem with these statements isn’t the quality of the goals – it’s the expression of them. The way these goals are stated makes you feel powerless, keeping you stuck in perpetual inaction.
You need to let it sink in how powerfully words affect your actions. That way you can start making progress on your goals – and stop feeling like a failure when you don’t follow through.
Let’s use this blog post you’re reading to illustrate my point.
Every other week, I try to give you something valuable that you can use in your life. And because I’m so passionate about helping women like you and because I want every post to both be inspiring and give truly effective strategies (and because I’m a perfectionist to the point of paralysis), it isn’t always easy.
It’s even less easy when I start off my two-week cycle with, “I need to write a blog post this week.” When the first week comes to a close, I often hear myself saying, “I’m going to write the blog post over the weekend.”
As Sunday rolls around, I hear more of the same things. “I need to write that post by Wednesday” and “I’m going to write it tomorrow so I can finally have it done.”
What ultimately happens is that I clear everything off my calendar on Friday and sit down and write it. Boom.
With some simple shifts in my language, I could have easily gotten it done the previous Monday – and spared myself all that unnecessary mental torture.
Fortunately, I’ve learned to recognize when I’m sabotaging myself like this and to stop myself from doing it.
“Need To” and “Going To” Are Goal Killers
Let’s get into the specifics of how these phrases prevent you from achieving your goals.
When you say “I need to,” what you’re actually saying is, “I don’t do this and I feel bad about it.” You’re defeating yourself before you even start.
“Needing” to do something makes you feel like a failure because it reminds you of what you’re not currently doing. It makes you feel unsuccessful.
And saying “I’m going to” leaves out the implied word start.
Telling yourself “I’m going to work out more” really translates as “I’m going to start working out more.” And if you haven’t started, you’ve already failed.
Furthermore, “going to” is basically an intention without a plan – which means you’re not likely to stick with anything long enough to see real results.
Feeling like you’ve already failed prevents you from taking serious action because it drains your enthusiasm, motivation, and determination.
How Rephrasing Helps You Succeed
Now contrast those two phrases with some form of “I do.”
I need to work out more.
I’m going to start working out more.
I work out every day.
I need to eat more fruits and vegetables.
I’m going to start eating more fruits and vegetables.
I regularly eat fruits and vegetables.
Using the present tense means you are currently taking action. It is a certainty and you don’t have to try. You don’t feel behind because you’re not behind. You are succeeding and thus generating more power to continue.
Your Action Plan
Here are three strategies to make it easy to change what you say:
Catch yourself and rephrase. This one’s simple. Every time you hear yourself say some version of need to or going to, stop yourself and change it to something you’re actively doing.
“I need to stop eating sweets” becomes “I don’t eat sweets” or “I rarely eat sweets.” “I’m going to start meditating” becomes “I meditate often.”
Make it specific and timely. Saying “I meditate often” is great, but it’s even more likely you’ll succeed if you set a time for it. So “I meditate often” becomes “I meditate every night for five minutes before I go to bed.”
Best of all, say when you’re doing it. “I go to the grocery store every Tuesday morning from 8:00 to 8:30 to load up on fruits and vegetables, and I spend 30 minutes afterward prepping everything.”
And if you really want results, schedule it on your calendar!
Back it up with a why. “I eat tons of fruits and vegetables” becomes even more powerful when you say why you do:
I eat tons of fruits and vegetables because . . .
. . . they give me energy.
. . . they prevent disease.
. . . they make my skin glow.
Even better, make it an identity:
I eat tons of fruits and vegetables because . . .
. . . I’m a vegetarian.
. . . I’m an organic gardener.
. . . I’m the healthiest person I know.
If you eat tons of fruits and vegetables because you’re the healthiest person you know, you don’t have to make yourself eat fruits and vegetables . . . or even talk about it at all. Your actions are consistent with your identity.
The “why” strengthens your motivation and the “who” makes it easy to do.
[A word of caution: start small. If you don’t work out very often, don’t schedule a 5-mile run three days a week or try to make your identity “marathon runner.” If you’re a junk food junkie, you don’t need to throw out all your food and become a vegetarian overnight.]
Make Your Goals a Reality
Notice what you say and work on changing it. Phrase your goals in the present tense and make them super specific. Give yourself a powerful “why” and tie your goals to who you are or want to become.
A goal is inherently not yet achieved, but the key is to not distance yourself from it with your language. Envision it as already achieved – and talk about it as if it were – so there’s no “need to” or “going to.”
Phrasing your goals as already achieved intensifies your belief that you can actually achieve them – and belief makes it a reality.
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