Create Better Goals – the Power of the Positive Focus

If you have goals to stop procrastinating, reduce your stress, or quit losing your patience you may be setting yourself up for failure. In this blog post and video, I share how to increase your chance of reaching these and other goals by making one simple tweak.

This blog post came about thanks to a question from one of my newsletter subscribers, Amanda. She wanted to stop procrastinating with her exercise and on her business.

Words are incredibly important, and how we use them can support or sabotage our efforts to reach our goals. And after doing what I’m about to share with you, Amanda realized she was sabotaging her efforts right from the get-go, and it had everything to do with how she worded her goals.

Here is what she changed. She gave her goals a positive focus. In short, she focused on what she wanted instead of what she didn’t want.

Focus on what you want, not what you don't want

Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.

Giving goals a positive focus has nothing to do with looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses or being optimistic all of the time. This is about giving your mind something to focus on. Something tangible and concrete that you see and feel and possibly touch instead of something you don’t want, or wish would disappear or go away or stop happening.

The brain can’t not think about something.

For example, it can’t stop thinking about a pink elephant. Stop it! Just stop thinking about her pink tail with the pink tuft on the end and those cute, pink toenails. Stop thinking about it.

See? Your brain put a pink elephant in your brain. And that’s the last thing you wanted in there.

The same rule applies to your goals. When they’re focused on what you don’t want, you brain focuses on that:

  • Stop procrastinating: the brain focuses on procrastinating.
  • Reduce your stress: it focuses on stress.
  • Quit losing your patience: brain focuses on losing your patience.

I assume you don’t want to focus on procrastination, stress or losing patience. So give yourself something you want to focus on instead.

For simplicity, let’s use the pink elephant example again. If you don’t want to think about a pink elephant, tell your brain what you want it to think about instead. How about a purple lion? Think about a purple lion with its purple mane, purple tongue, and piercing, purple eyes. Much easier!

Here is a question that will help to turn your goals from a negative focus (what you don’t want) to a positive focus (what you do want).

If you weren't BLANK, what would you most want instead?

If I wasn’t ____, what would I most want to do instead?

Put the thing you don’t want in the blank.

Let’s use Amanda’s example.

Her original focus was on what she didn’t want: to stop procrastinating with her exercise.

“If I wasn’t procrastinating, what would I most want to do instead?”

Amanda’s answer:

[I would want to] “be excited to move my body, and grateful to have the limbs to do so.”

This became her new goal. And it worked really well for Amanda. Here is what she had to say:

“. . . attaching a negative word to something I want to accomplish is kind of self-limiting right off the bat and maybe even makes it a drudge to work on, but when I change my words to describe it in a way in which I would LIKE to move through the blocks then it’s kind of an opportunity thing…it really makes a huge difference when you change your mind frame and your words!”

Beware or the trickster, “I want.”

Just because you start a goal with “I want” doesn’t mean that you have worded your goal with what you actually want (that positive focus).

Here are some common examples of things that SEEM like they’re focused on what you want, but are really goals that focus on what you don’t want.

  • I want to lose 20 pounds. The focus is on pounds and your weight.
  • I want to stop yelling. The focus is on yelling.
  • I want to get rid of the clutter on my desk. The clutter is the focus.
  • I want to reduce the hours that I’m working. This puts all the focus on the hours you’re working.

What do you want instead? Answer that, and you’re on your way to creating much better goals for yourself.

Actions to take from here

  1. Review your current goals.
  2. Re-word the negatively focused ones to have a positive focus.
  3. Download the bonus one-page cheat sheet of “don’t want” words. Details below.
  4. Send me your questions.

Bonus for newsletter subscribers (and those who become one)

Because it can be difficult to identify negatively focused goals, I put together an additional resource for my newsletter subscribers. This one-page cheat sheet includes:

  • The most common “don’t want” words I hear in my coaching practice.
  • 9 real-life examples of negatively focused goals that have been re-worded to focus on the positive.

If you’re a subscriber, simply scroll down the email of this article to download the document.

If you’re not a subscriber, you can still get it. Become a subscriber here, send me a super-quick email saying you want the cheat sheet, and I’ll fire it off to you. When you subscribe, you’ll also get my powerful and highly coveted 3-2-1 Countdown to get present and calm.

If you found this exercise to be valuable, please share it with others so they can start making better goals for themselves. I will appreciate it and I’m sure they will too.


In the video, I mention an exercise that will transform your excuses into powerful actions. Here is the link to that post:

Your Beautiful But(s)

5 steps to make your goals and dreams happen faster

If you find yourself saying things like, “I would love to travel to Paris but…” or “I need to exercise more but…” or “I should really network more but…”, here is an exercise you may want to do right away. I outline the steps below and explain it in greater detail with three examples in the video.

This process will help you to

  • Get unstuck,
  • See where specifically you’re holding yourself back, and
  • Identify limiting beliefs.

You can use this for personal goals and dreams, business goals or corporate projects. Anything, really.

A recent strategy session that I did for a business woman prompted me to create this exercise. She said one of the phrases above and then let her voice trail away. I’m sure we can all think of something we’ve said that we’d love to do and then let our voices trail away in much the same way. Left to ourselves, we may never make progress on that dream or goal. It likely seems impossible or not something that’s really doable right now. And that’s not the case. Like I did with this business woman, you can explore the “buts” to find out why you think can’t do something and build an action plan to move forward.

Five steps to get your but(s) working for you

Step 1 – Draw a heart

On a piece of full scap, draw a heart with enough room beneath and around its sides. You’ll be writing in those spaces.


Pro tip: If you turn the heart upside down, it will look like a butt. Tee hee.

Step 2 – Write out your goal

What do you wish you could do? What do you wish you could have? What do you wish you could be? Write that out underneath the heart. Let’s suppose you want to exercise more regularly. Write down the number of times you want to exercise or the duration for each exercise session. The more specific, the better.

Write out your goal

Step 3 – Write out your buts

These are all of the reasons you can think of that would keep you from achieving the goal. Write them down around the outside of the heart. Space them out somewhat evenly.

ID your buts

Many common buts that keep us from exercising are

  • No time
  • No money
  • Don’t like exercising by yourself
  • Don’t stick with it

You may have more or fewer buts, depending on your goal and your self awareness of the reasons you feel you can’t achieve the goal. The total number doesn’t matter, so long as it feels complete for you. You will likely find that you have one or two main buts that are the primary culprits in keeping you stuck.

Step 4 – Brainstorm things that counter the buts

Inside the heart, write out your ideas to counter the buts. At this stage, it is helpful to ask yourself, “What do I need to do, have or become in order to make this but go away?”

Brainstorm responses

Here is what this might look like using the exercise example:

  • No time – get up earlier; experiment adding short breaks into the day
  • No money – cut back on coffee or other expenses that you don’t “need”; save up money for membership
  • Don’t like exercising by yourself – Get an exercise buddy; find a group class to join
  • Don’t stick with it – Get an exercise buddy; work with an accountability partner

Step 5 – Take action immediately

Choose one of the ideas you developed and commit to taking one small, simple and specific action step. Write this action step beneath the goal you’re aiming for. Be as specific as possible about what you will do, when you will do it, and where you will be when you do it. Aim to complete the task either immediately or within the next 24 hours.

In our rolling example, let’s suppose you chose your idea to get an exercise buddy. The action step could be:

  • Send Mary a Facebook message during lunch time asking her to be my exercise buddy for noon-hour walks on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Take action

And there you have it. Within about 5 to 15 minutes, you have taken a “someday maybe” idea and turned it into here and now progress.

  • For a specific example on creating a kick-butt elevator pitch go to 12:20 in the video.
  • For an example on becoming an executive member in your organization, skip to 15:08.

If you want to take this exercise further, or if you suspect you have some limiting beliefs that are holding you back, feel free to apply for a complementary strategy session. You’ll gain so much clarity for yourself.

In the meantime, share this strategy with others. Let’s see how many buts we can get working for us instead of against us. I’d also love to hear about the wins you create for yourself by doing this exercise. Drop me an email at erin [at] erinacton [dot] com to let me know what became possible for you.

When you have no energy to do the BBQ


Sometimes, I just don’t have it in me to bring a marinated meat in a plastic baggie with a hand-crafted side dish to a group BBQ. This week was no exception. So I gave myself permission to “fail” at this BBQ. I phoned my contribution in, so to speak. In this short video, I show you what I ended up bringing as my meat and side dish.

In my #FailFriday posts, I share where I’ve been “failing” (those quotes are very intentional) in my life and business to show others that no one is perfect. Many of the people I work with are high achievers who hate failing, yet feel so much better when they give themselves permission to loosen up a bit, myself included.

If you can relate and know others will too, make their day and share this post. Let’s give ourselves permission to fail more often.

How have you failed with the BBQ lately?

Building a business can feel a lot like blackberry picking

Building a business can feel a lot like blackberry picking.

From afar, it seems like there are so many juicy berries to choose from. Wow! So many leads and prospects.

Then when you get there, you realize the best ones have already been picked and the ones left over aren’t ripe yet. You can see some great ones, but they’re out of reach. You’re strong, you’re determined and so you go after them only to scratch yourself silly and only get a few good ones.

When you work with a business coach, you can build strategies to pick at the best times, to find bushes others haven’t, to assess which berries to pick and which ones to leave to ripen a little longer, to take advantage of tools that lift you up so you can see the bush from above, or to extend your reach.

That’s how I support people.

To find out if we would be a good fit to work together, apply for a confidential strategy session. In it, we will clarify your goals and identify what’s getting in your way from reaching them so that you can choose your best next step forward.

You’ll feel silly when you say this out loud

And it may be the best thing for you

How would you feel if you had made a couple of deals involving at least a couple million dollars? I’m guessing you’d probably feel pretty good. I know I would. However, a woman I spoke to the other day did not feel good or the least bit positive.

Only compare you to you

She felt like crap. She was upset by her lack of progress and was beating herself up about it. She wasn’t making the sales and that she wanted to and in her eyes, she wasn’t at the level of others around her. It was significantly impacting her. She was frozen when it came to making cold calls that would help to generate new leads for her business.

I was curious to know more about one guy in particular that she was comparing herself to, and who had been doing incredibly well in his business.

Me: How long has he been in business?

Her: Three years.

Me: How long have you been working your business?

Her: One month.

As soon as she said this, and heard the words out loud, she realized how silly it sounded. Yet until that moment, she really, truly believed she was failing in her business. And this after one month where she had already closed a couple of significant deals.

I’m sure we can all relate to her experience in some way. We see someone else rocking it in life, their career or their business and we look at our lives, careers and businesses and wonder why the heck we aren’t seeing the results that they are. We beat ourselves up and the little voice inside our head starts yipping. And not in a good way. Here are the most common voices my clients and I tend to work on together:

I must be doing something wrong.

I’m not good enough.

I’m lazy.

I’m stupid.

We conveniently forget everything that we’ve accomplished and focus only on the things that apparently prove what failures we are.

This is poison. It seeps from our minds into our actions. We achieve what we believe. If we believe we’re pieces of crap, we’ll behave in a way that proves this and we’ll end up getting what we believe we deserve. Our beliefs manifest in our words, our actions, our tone of voice. They lead us to get a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs. To start clicking through the part-time job postings when we should be making client or prospecting calls that will help our business thrive. They keep us from doing the most important things that will help us to achieve what we most want.

Here are the critical elements for you to remember.

You have no idea what the other person has been doing. You have no idea how much they have hustled to get where they are now. You don’t know how much work they needed to do to create a winning mindset.

If you’re like most everyone else, there will always be someone who is more successful than you. There will always be someone who is less successful than you. And there is someone right now who is looking at what you have achieved wondering why they haven’t yet done what you have. Really.

It can help to remember that everyone feels like they aren’t good enough from time to time.

It’s completely and absolutely in your best interest to change your mindset. Immediately. To believe inside and out that you can do this. That you are doing the right things. That you are making progress. That you are smart.

It takes time and a concerted effort to address this.

The only person you need to compare yourself to is you. That’s it. Be better this week than you were last week. Get more uncomfortable today than you were yesterday. Stretch more in this minute than you stretched the last. Focus on each and every win.

Keep a diary or a journal or a white board of all of your successes. All of them. Write all of your wins down and post them where you can see them. Keep them prominent. Honour those wins. Be grateful and thankful for the wins you’ve achieved so far. Review those wins every day. Review them when you notice you’re comparing yourself to others, and smile. You are making things happen for yourself.

And that is a beautiful thing.

If you found this valuable, I would be grateful if you shared it with others who may need to hear just this message today.

I spent my whole day working on something I had no business doing

Recently I found myself hours into a project. It seemed so simple when I started, and yet it became this thing. It grew and became more complicated that I thought in the first place. I’m sure we can all relate to a moment like that. Where we start something with good intentions, or with the intent to save ourselves some time and money by just doing it ourselves. And then realizing we had it totally backwards. That we completely wasted our time, and by default our money, by doing something that we didn’t have any business doing in the first place.

Here is my takeaway for you.

Don’t do it.

That thing you think will take you 30 minutes or an hour that would cost you $20, 50, 100, will cost you much more in your time. Because we both know that it’s going to take a minimum of double or triple that time. Time that you can spend with your loved ones or doing something that you love like (ahem) drinking wine.

Your challenge the next tine you face this decision: hire someone else to do it. Cough up the cash, save your sanity and just get it done.

I look forward to connecting with you on Instagram and Snapchat. Follow me or send me a connection request. I’m @erinacton in both places.

Want to leave your job? Watch this.

I speak to a lot of people who daydream about leaving their current job to start a business. Alison Forster is someone who has done just that.

do it

After about 20 years in corporate world, it got to a point where she could no longer keep doing what she had been doing. She saved up a nest egg and made the leap, leaving the corporate world and its accompanying six-figure salary, moved across the continent, stopped what she calls “destination obsession”, started her new business, and began her new life.

In this interview, she shares how she made it happen. Enjoy.

Alison’s company, OOMPHATICO™, works exclusively with clients who are committed to unprecedented change, facilitating an elite process of accelerated subconscious reprogramming uniquely designed to transcend willpower, determination and positive thinking to:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Release post-traumatic stress
  • Re-perceive fears and phobias to feel at ease
  • Eliminate destructive habits & behaviours
  • And more…

oomphatico at gmail dot com

+1 (250) 891 6060