On average, only half of adults take time in January to set New Year resolutions and typically by January 15th 92% of them have already given up. Most of us know that we are twice as likely to achieve our goal if we write it down and if we add in other known goal tips such as making them specific, time bound, telling others our goal, carrying our goal with us; then we are more likely to be one of the 8% who actually achieve their goals.

New Year seems a long-way away and for many of us conversations are turning towards holidays and not personal goals.  Yet, setting goals or mini-intentions take place all the time.  The simple task of booking a holiday will invariably include the passing thought of loosing weight or getting beach-ready, saving for the holiday and possible how to plan work around the time off.  All goal setting activities.  So why not look at goals as an every day activity and not just a New Year’s whim that is quickly forgotten about.

Shelle Rose Charvet, author of ‘Words that Change Minds’, talks about how different words motivate us and when thinking about goals 40% of us are drawn to ‘towards’ language and 40% are drawn to ‘away from’ language, with the other 20% using a mixture of both.   Sometimes described as pain or pleasure motivation, it is a commonly accepted Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Meta Model of how we view the world.  Back in 1957 Noam Chomsky undertook a thesis on Transformational Grammar where he identified three processes which people unconsciously used to filter information from the outside world to inform how we think, feel and behave. Some of you will be familiar with the process of Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation.  Chomsky’s work and subsequent development by Bandler and Grinder (1975) progressed into the NLP Communication Model by James and Woodsmall in 1988.  Just reflect on a recent meeting or group conversation where everyone comes away with a slightly different understanding of what happened.

Understanding what your common motivation pattern is will help you plan future changes in your life by using the right language to reinforce you goal. A towards thinking, speaking and motivated person will use language of have to, what they will gain, who they will become and may even use forward motion body language to show their path forward.  A typical toward goal would be wanting to feel fitter, gain a qualification, save up for a special holiday or make more money.

An away from thinker, speaker and motivated person will use language such as avoid, remove, a problem to be fixed and may have body language that demonstrates that they are trying to get rid of something.  This time you may hear a goal that is about not feeling fat / unhealthy, not doing boring work, or avoiding the same holiday as others.

If you are not sure which you, your coachee or team are motivated by, ask these questions and listen out for the motivational clues:

  1. What is important for you when choosing a holiday?
  2. What is important to you in work?
  3. What is important to you about good health?

Yours and their responses will probably include some of these motivational words.

Toward Motivation used by 40% of people, who look tend to look for solutions and are good at managing priorities.

  • Attain
  • Gain
  • Achieve
  • Get
  • Include
  • Towards
  • Can’t wait to get there
  • Accomplish
  • Reward
  • End Result
  • Goals

Away from Motivation used by 40% of people, often focus on what is wrong, they look at the situation as a problem to be fixed and are focused on the pain of not doing something.

  • Avoid
  • Exclude
  • Recognize
  • Problem
  • Don’t like…
  • Trouble Shooting
  • Fix
  • Steer Clear of
  • Prevent
  • Solve
  • Fix
  • Prohibit

So, the next time you set yourself a mini focus, task or goal consider if you are motivated by toward or away-from language, then write down what you want to achieve using the correct linguistic-filters, keeping it specific, time bound and tell at least 3 other people what you are aiming to succeed in.   Why not try the technique with a member of your team and see what impact it has on them and their performance.  As remember, goals are for life, not just for New Year.