What Do You Really Want, Cupcake? (The Benefit of Setting Clear Goals)



It always amazes me when I have a new client and ask her how she wants me to help. “To get better.” I always have to encourage them to go further into their heads and think of something more specific. To save your reading time, I will tell you that the goals usually end up similar to this: I want to be a Champ/Super Champ, I want to be number one on the middle school team, I want to be in the top six on the varsity team, I want to beat (name) in my next challenge match. Once we get to this point, it becomes easier for them to learn the benefit of setting clear goals. Clear goals are easier to achieve.

Let me be clear. This is not new neuroscience; however, it is consistent neuroscience. I can do the same thing over and over, and achieve the same result. Every time. The more precise a goal, the easier it is to figure out the steps to reach that goal, and the easier it is to achieve the exact goal. When you state a specific goal and ask yourself, “What do I need to accomplish this goal?” the entire top half of your brain lights up, and different parts of your brain work together as your most precious commodity figures out what it needs to do, what it can do, to help you. Christie Marie Sheldon tells her clients to ask the question, “What would it take” to accomplish a specific goal.

Christie Marie Sheldon

The broader or less specific a goal, the harder it becomes to reach that goal, simply because you don’t know what you truly want. This confusion actually serves to light up the amygdala, and your fight or flight reaction is activated, which shuts down the frontal lobe of the brain that deals with problem-solving skills in the brain.

For instance, let us say that I am working on serves with a student. Her toss is inconsistent, she keeps changing her grip in the middle of her motion, and the balls are landing all over the court, sometimes in the net. On an “easy” day (she is a little unfocused), I can just ask her to name her target before she serves, and when she succeeds X amount of times, we can do something else of her choosing. On a hard day (her mind is on planet boyfriend), I put cones in the serving box and offer a Gatorade of her choosing once she hits logo-G-gatorade-vertical-FNegro-1five targets. Now she has a specific goal. Her form suddenly improves as she remembers everything I have instructed in the past. As she aims for a specific target, her serves now go into the designated serving box. The more she focuses, the more successful she becomes. When she hits five targets, we celebrate and I put down the flavor of Gatorade that I will buy for her next lesson. Then we move on.

The more specific goal, the easier it is to achieve that goal, simply because there will be a path to that goal. Pass a class? Do the homework and pass some tests. Make an A in a class? Do all the homework correctly, ace the quizzes, and write an awesome final paper. Build a business? This may be too broad. Build a specific business? Now you can do research and figure out what steps need to be taken to succeed in it. You might be able to do certain steps the same, but the more specific you make your idea, the more specific your steps will be. For instance, while advertising matters in all businesses, advertising for a book will be different from advertising for a new cupcake bakery. There will be different images, different words used in the ad, and different strategies to gather a following.


Courtesy of www.fedex.com

Still doubt me? John Assaraf did this in a class one time. He asked students to find the arrow in FedEx. He insisted that if students asked their brains to find the arrow, their brains would respond with success. Then he asked them to find the spoon. Take a second, if you haven’t done this already, and see if you can find them in the FedEx logo.




  1. Be specific. What is your goal? Can you make it more specific by adding a certain number, building a certain kind of place (how many stories, how many rooms, how big is each room), or giving it a specific name?


  1. Let your brain work for you. Ask yourself, “What would it take to achieve this goal?” and be patient. The answer will come when you are totally relaxed, so do not expect enlightenment when you are paying your bills or looking at a leaking faucet or waiting on the cable guy.


  1. Write. Write down ALL of the steps—yes, every one of them–that your brain gives you. While several steps may look intimidating, the more steps you have, the easier it is to focus and achieve them, and the more you get to celebrate your achievements (way to go, cupcake!).


  1. Ask again. Ask yourself, “What would it take to achieve this step?” for each idea you listed in #3. By the time you start writing here, your brain should be humming, and it will release its feel-good chemicals as you work. This is a win-win moment.



  1. Go achieve your goals, cupcake! And celebrate EACH STEP as you achieve it. Do not minimize or ignore your “smaller” achievements. They are the foundation of your success. Celebrating reminds your subconscious that it matters, that you matter, and it will be easier to access this part of your brain the next time you need to solve a problem. Once again, celebrating releases the feel-good chemicals in your brain, and this reaffirms your ability to accomplish your goals.


As always, let me know how it’s going. What are some things you do when setting your goals? When do you celebrate? How do you celebrate? Feel free to share, as you are sending yourself a Karmic boomerang.


By the way, if you didn’t find thefedex-logo-rvsFedEx optic illusions, here they are.


Have a great day, and stay frosted! blueribboncupcake2

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31 thoughts on “What Do You Really Want, Cupcake? (The Benefit of Setting Clear Goals)

  1. Great post Liz…. a really good description of how to get specific about your goals and nail the small steps. I particularly loved the ask again extra step.
    I’m going to be using your steps as soon as I can work out what I truly want.

    1. Helen, sometimes you can do this activity to find out what you truly want, so I encourage you to try it. Let me how it’s going, and have a great day!

    1. Natalie, I’m so glad you can use this! That’s my whole goal, so feel free to share with as many people as you think need it. Thank you for being here, and have a cupcake kind of day! 🙂

    1. Beth, I’m so glad you agree. I actually talk about breaking the goal down into doable steps in my next blog. Great minds think alike, lol. Thank you so much for stopping by, and have a great day! 🙂

  2. I like that your analogies related to tasks a student encounters because it is unique. There are so many business people talking about this topic, your analogies require our brain to work to translate. Anyone in social media marketing, even if just for one’s own company knows that we have to have clear goals, but you presented a unique reason- engaging our amygdala.

    1. Roslyn, Thank you so much for your insight! I’m glad you made the transition from a sport analogy to anyone; we can all set goals and achieve them, and we all use the same brain parts. You’re an awesome cupcake!:-) Have a great day!

  3. I so agree with the point that you made about being specific. Recently I was doing spring cleaning and found an old journal where I wrote my goals in my 20’s. I was very specific and 80 percent of those goals are accomplished today. I am repeating this exercise now and want to be even more specific because some of the things I wanted in my 20’s I just wanted them just to have them but now I have more clarity and want things that are more meaningful to me and others around me.

    1. That’s great that you found some of your writing from your 20s, and that you realized most of the goals you wanted to achieve were fulfilled. It shows you have the ability to focus and the do what it takes to meet your expectations! Way to make your brain waves happy, and way to reaffirm to your brain that you can do whatever you desire! Have a cupcake day! 🙂

    1. Lisa, I hope you have fun writing down some of your goals. Remember to celebrate the little achievements, and have a cupcake day! 🙂

    1. Lisa, I’ll bet it makes your clients so much happier when you help them see what they’ve achieved on their way to their “final” goal (which will be the stepping stone to yet another final goal)! Thanks for the affirmation, and have a great day! 🙂

  4. For us who have some art training, the arrow and spoon exist in the negative space. I often see the world in the skies above me, through this negative space. The clouds being the positive space and the sky the negative. Goals are an interesting topic for me. I often set goals and get very frustrated if I don’t reach them. Even though I am doing each necessary step to get to the finish line. Often, I prefer to be open and free flowing and see how things up for me. The key for me anyways, is to let go of attachment to a specific outcome and to be grateful for a possibly even grander outcome than I had imagined. Thanks for the specific brain science shared and for the ideas you presented also. I have a lot of goals outlined on paper now (most of the time they live in my head) and am moving forward step by step to tick them off as they happen. Or not. 🙂 The key is to enjoy the journey and trust that whatever direction you’re being led is the direction to go, and stay open to see what future is coming toward you. That’s in my world anyways. It sounds like for people training as athletes the psychology of specific goals is very important. Thanks for the great post! Here’s to big dreams and even bigger outcomes.

    1. Beverley, I am like you in that I usually trust in the process, but sometimes I get frustrated when I don’t achieve my goals in the time I think I should. I still work better in a light framework. What do I want? how do I get it? Good for you for being so like water! 🙂

    1. Janelle,
      Thank you for stopping by! 🙂 What’s the old adage: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail? Right up the alley for not having a goal. No goal, no direction; no direction, no plan. Glad you’re a planner, cupcake. Have a great day! 🙂

  5. I’m all about celebrating every step along the way! Great article and thanks for making me fire a few neurons to find the X and spoon

    1. Beth, Cupcake kind of people are the best at finding reasons to celebrate! Go for it, and have a great day! I have to ask: which image was harder to find, the arrow or the spoon? 🙂

    1. Carol, most of the time when we “force” our answers, they are usually someone else’s ideas, and not our own. Thank you for realizing this, and have a great day! 🙂

  6. It is easier to achieve clear goals. I like the statement that do not ignore your smaller achievements which are the foundation of your success.

    1. Lorii, It always surprises me how much more motivated people become when they celebrate even the smallest of achievements! Plus, it puts them in a great mood! Win! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by!

  7. Love your blogs girl… such value and it’s true… on the goal setting when I am doing a workout and a trainer says, okay, do pushups to failure… ummm, so, how many? He says, to failure.. .okay, I pick a number and stop. He just doesn’t get it, I WILL push myself to completion, when there aren’t set goals, it’s hard to say, yay, I did it. Great work. (two things, I hope you finish your website site – can’t wait to see it and be sure to have external links open in a new window or you are just sending folks away from your site) Lose!

    1. Kristen, you and I are so alike, which is probably one of the reasons I love your Cupcake style. 🙂 Trainer, schmainer. I slack if I’m allowed, so I need someone to push me. As for other personal goals, I find that I like to have someone to share them with so I can maintain accountability; otherwise, I give myself too much permission to slack off. Thank you for the blog info; I thought I had it fixed. UGH

    1. Katarina, I’m so glad you liked it. So, I’m curious: which image did you find first? I saw the arrow immediately. The spoon took a few seconds. 🙂 How’s the wine tasting going?

  8. Great article! Indeed setting SPECIFIC goals is just so important. 9 out of 10 business owners I’m talking to say they want to get clients or want to make a good living from their business. But when I ask for specifics, they are stuck. Pity, because knowing exactly what revenue you want to generate on a monthly basis will help you to reverse engineer your sales process. And knowing you need let’s say 4 new clients sounds so easier than than quoting a $ revenue. I also realized I come to different conclusions if I verbalize my goals in writing or verbally, so I like using both, they complement each other.

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