Written by Ellen Hartson

Do you ever wonder why you can really want to achieve a goal, but end up going in the opposite direction?

Most of us know that it’s important to set goals. For our health and fitness, and also in other areas of our lives.

The real reason that we don’t always get to our goals may be lying under the surface. Like an iceberg, where 80% is under the water and we cannot see it.


Above and below the surface

You see, our mind is made up of the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. But our unconscious thoughts may be below the surface. What if 80% of our thoughts that are driving our behaviors are ‘under the surface’?

Here’s how our thoughts relate to our goals:

Thought ->  Feeling ->  Behavior ->  Result (achieve goal)

Let’s say that your conscious thought is I really want to lose weight and that thought creates a feeling of motivated

That feeling would drive the behavior of sticking to my eating plan

which would lead to the result of losing weight or achieving my goal.

Right? So why doesn’t it work that way?

Because under the surface, you have other thoughts, such as

I never stick to my eating plan for more than a week

Why bother, it’s so hard to lose it and keep it off

I come from a long line of ‘bigger’ women

I’m tired of depriving myself while everyone else enjoys their food

Now you can see why it’s so important to get ‘under the surface’ and identify as many of those thoughts as possible. Some people worry that they don’t want to focus on negative thoughts. But you can’t learn to manage your negative thoughts unless you identify them and if you’re not getting the results you want in achieving your goal, then I guarantee you that those thoughts are there somewhere.

Feelings text message with alphabets on white background.

 How to find the thoughts

A good place to start is to identify the feeling state that tends to show up whenever you pursue this goal. For me, I always noticed that I would end up discouraged.

Or, you can start by identifying the behavior that gets in the way of your goals. For weight loss, this can be overeating, or more specifically, snacking, or large portions, or eating too many carbs. Just identify what it is for you and then ask yourself, what is the feeling that preceded my behavior?

For many of my clients, it’s anxiety. But it can be anything. For me, feeling discouraged led to getting sloppy with my eating plan.

Digital Bathroom Scale Displaying OMG Message - achieve a goal

Now work backwards

Thought <-  Feeling <-  Behavior

Behavior: overeating, caused by

Feeling: discouraged, caused by                                           

Thought: I’m working so hard and not losing weight fast enough!!!

AHA! You can identify the thought that created the feeling that led you to go off of your plan!

Once I realized that I was too focused on the numbers and the scale and the timeframe, I knew what I had to change.

I started to weigh myself twice a week instead of daily. I stopped focusing so much on when I would achieve my goal and shifted my focus to keep my commitment to myself. I realized that this was even more valuable to me than losing weight because it applied to so many areas of my life!

I set my goal far out into the future and reminded myself that losing it slowly was much healthier and more likely to lead to long-term results. There were 3 weeks when I did not lose any weight and I noticed those old thoughts and feelings creeping in. I really focused on how proud I was for keeping my commitment to myself. I promised myself that as long as I continued to keep my commitment, the weight would have to come off.

Now it’s been 11 weeks and I’ve lost 12 pounds.

How is your mind keeping you from achieving your goals?

See if you can identify any thoughts lurking under the surface by using the steps above. Once you know what your mind is saying to drive your feelings, behaviors, and results, you have the power to shift your thinking and/or change your plan!


Ellen Hartson is a licensed therapist, life coach, and relationship guru. Working with Teija on her fitness program has helped Ellen move toward her health and fitness goal.

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