An Em-POW-Word Way to Set Goals


In previous posts, I’ve whined that goal setting is both uncomfortable and boring but oh, so useful. Denise Reed, president and CEO of The Concierge Office Suites agreed with me – until she found a better way to do it.


Denise and I know each other professionally and are Facebook friends. One day, I saw the following statement from Denise cross my news feed…


“I want to share my very unconventional journey of goal setting based on how you want to feel to get things done. I’m sick of feeling burdened, and defeated. Aren’t you?” [emphasis added]


She got my attention. So, we scheduled some time to talk.


Denise is a multi-talented person. She is a wife, a stepmom, and a community leader. She is the CEO of two companies: one that provides full-service executive office rental and administrative support, and the other…well…it’s a poultry farm called Wing and a Prayer. She serves 85 companies and 150,000 chickens.


Denise spends her days working with business owners and chickens.   You can insert your favorite witty comment here. I have too many to pick just one.


Back to goal setting…


Denise isn’t nearly as whiny as me about goal setting but she did find the more traditional method of a numbers-based measurement process defeating. She felt that she was just counting things for the sake of counting things, not for any meaningful purpose. That’s when she had this insight: “Goal setting is supposed to be a positive experience. So, what makes me feel positive?”


An aviReedDenise_headshotd journal writer, Denise made a list things that she wanted to accomplish. For each of the items on her list, she played the following fill-in-the-blank game: “If I did this, it would make me feel ______________.” She ended up with a list of words that were personally meaningful and motivational. Of this list of feeling words, there was one word that stood out to her: vivacious.


And there you have it. Denise decided that, in all she does, she wants to feel vivacious. This word represents who she is and the head space she wants to be in every day.


Now, when Denise makes her to-do list, she looks at each item critically. If it makes her feel vivacious, she is excited to do it. If it doesn’t, she questions whether she needs to delegate or remove the task altogether. When Denise sets goals, she aligns them with her desired outcome: feeling vivacious. Stephen Covey would be proud, I think. Denise begins with the emotive end in mind.


My Thoughts on Denise’s Em-POW-Word Goal Setting Process


I like it. Just like the Force, there is a dark side to goal setting. When setting goals, it is easy to hyper-focus on them to the exclusion of other important areas of life or work. For example, if all I think about is achieving my numeric profitability goal, then I may destroy some important relationships in the process. A guiding word may help me maintain balance.


Additionally, who says that a goal I’ve set is what I should be striving for in the first place? Without some standard to which I can hold myself accountable, it is easy to proceed along a path not knowing where it leads. If I have an overarching mission, or even a single word that guides me, at least I can use that to help keep me honest. If what I’m doing doesn’t make me feel vivacious, for instance, then at least I may take a pause to reflect.


Goal-setting is one of the most extensively-researched areas of industrial/organizational psychology. It’s as close to “fact” as people in my field get. As I have written before, research shows that goals are more likely to lead to success if they are (1) specific, (2) challenging, and (3) shared with others. Sharing goals makes it more likely that you will achieve them because it increases your commitment to the goal. Denise’s method of finding a power word, like vivacious, is an additional way to increase commitment to a course of action, and perhaps provide ongoing motivation when the going gets tough.


So, what’s your word?


This article is a part of my #ProductivitySuperheroes series where I profile people who are exceptional at managing their time, tasks, information and/or life in general. If you’d like to nominate yourself or someone you admire, please email


Set Goals eBook

Are you ready to finally achieve what you set out to do?

Read my eBook Set Goals…even if you’re not convinced you’ll achieve them.

Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like what you read?

Get new posts directly in your inbox!

You might also like these posts…

Enjoying these posts? Make sure you dont miss any!

If you enjoy my blog posts and want to make sure you never miss one - sign up for my newsletter! When you do, you'll also get instant access to my FREE webinar on interruptions in the workplace.

Interruptions can kill productivity. With one “Got a minute?” from a coworker or one stray thought swirling in your brain, the flow of your work can be completely disrupted.

The trouble is that few people have concrete strategies to get back on task quickly after an interruption. Some people completely lose focus…for hours! If you have tried reducing interruptions, but they still impact your ability to be effective at work, this free webinar is for you.