These days, most of us rely on GPS to get around a new city or find an unfamiliar address. It’s a lot easier and more efficient than wandering aimlessly.

In much the same way, your brain is like a GPS system, more likely to get to its desired destination if it knows where it’s going ahead of time.

And like any GPS – which utilizes cities, street names and house numbers to locate the correct route – when it comes to goal success, the brain performs better if clear directions, laid out in a particular way, are outlined ahead of time. We call those coordinates the 3Ps:

  • Personal
  • Present
  • Positive


Is your goal positive or is it something you want to stop doing? While many companies use fear as a motivator and give us goals of things that should be avoided, scientists tell us this only works if there’s a fire alarm – it’s not useful for long-term goals.

If you have a strategic goal, one you need to focus on over the long term, having the prize in mind is key. The words need to involve the thing that’s worth moving towards. Think about your goal. Does it include the thing you want? When we do goal setting in this way, we’re tapping into the nuclei encompass, which helps with goal-directed behavior and motivation.


The second trick is to make it personal. No one loves getting their boss’s goals. More often than not, people are given goals that help the team, the boss, or the bottom line, but unless it’s personal, your brain is not interested. It has to be about what you want to achieve – even if that ultimately benefits the boss, the team and the bottom line.


The third thing for successful goal setting is phrasing it in the present tense, stating the goal as if you’ve already achieved it. Not I will, I want or I have to, otherwise your brain will keep you wanting and having to. Instead, imagine that you’ve already accomplished the goal. This makes the goal finish-line focused: I have, I am, I feel.

Just like putting the coordinates into a GPS, ensuring your goal setting is done in a brain-friendly way will go a long way to helping you reach those goals. Goal setting is not a destination, it’s a journey. Be sure to take your brain along for the ride!

Noesis delivers neuroleadership consulting and training to organizations handling everyday change and major transformation initiatives. We help our Fortune 500 clients scientifically improve leadership.