Creating Goals That Actually Work With Steven R. Campbell

by | Jan 1, 2020 | Podcasts

SWGR Campbell | Creating Goals That Work


Everyone has their own bag of tricks to try to get themselves straight to their goals, but not everything is fool-proof. The key to creating goals that work is to understand the science behind it and the way the brain actually works in relation to those very goals. Elizabeth Bachman is joined by Steven R. Campbell, the author of Making Your Mind Magnificent: Use the New Brain Science to Transform Your Life: End Negative Thinking, Improve Focus and Clarity, and Be Happier. Steven dives into what people get wrong during the process of goal-setting, and the most common fixes for these errors. Having goals is one thing, but setting strong, achievable goals is a whole other ball game, and Steven shows you how you can get there.

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Creating Goals That Actually Work With Steven R. Campbell

Making Your Mind Magnificent!

This is the show where we interview experts to learn about tips and techniques to improve our presentation skills so that we can get our audience to do what we want them to do. Whether you’re speaking to inspire your team in the middle of a meeting or you’re in a sales conversation, an enrollment conversation or maybe you’re getting up on stage and speaking to inspire people or promote your company, promote your services. It’s all presentation skills. The good thing is there are hundreds of tools and techniques that we can use to get to speak strategically so that we get the results we want. I’d like to invite you to go over to take our free assessment, which is at You can take an assessment that takes four or five minutes to see where your presentation skills are strong and where you might need a little bit of support. I am very excited to bring in and introduce to you, Steven Campbell. Steven, welcome.

Thank you. It’s so good to be here. This is going to be fun.

Steven is a very experienced speaker. He’s an author and a mentor. He wrote a seminal book called Making Your Mind Magnificent. He teaches audiences how our brains conform to the messages we give them. He shows how we can flip negative thinking and embrace change to realize our dreams. He acquired his Master’s at the University of San Francisco to pursue his greatest love of teaching. For many years, he’s been presenting easy to understand principles about the brain that can be immediately applied to improve the quality of our thoughts and lives. He’s also a regular speaker at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. He’s also a radio host. He’s an adjunct instructor at Sonoma State University. Steve, I’d like to ask you, if you were to be on stage with somebody from history, who would it be? What would you ask them about and who should be listening?

You could put on Einstein and all this, but the person that I would most love to talk about was one of the main founders of Cognitive Psychology. His name was Dr. Albert Ellis. He wrote a little book, a seminal book called A Guide to Rational Living, which turns psychology on a sphere back in the early ‘60s. More things came out in the ‘60s than the flower children. What he suggested has switched what psychology can do for us and it’s very simple. That’s why I love him. What he suggested is that everything that we can do primarily is based on what we say to ourselves about ourselves.

That seems pretty obvious but back prior to the ‘60s, psychology said, “The way you are is based in your unresolved childhood conflicts.” That was Freudianism. They said, “It’s all cause and effect.” That was Dr. Skinner’s work. It’s all on your genes and they said it’s on your environment. Dr. Ellis came back and he said something interesting, “They’re all true.” When I heard that, I said, “What? Are you crazy? They couldn’t be all true.” He said, “Yes, they can because your brain believes what you tell it.” For instance, what I said to myself for the first 42 years of life, “I’m dumb in math.” I was dumb in math. Some things happened and I began teaching it and I discovered not only am I smart in math, I love teaching it.

I ended up writing two college textbooks on math. What was the point? The point was this, and this goes back to Dr. Ellis. If everything we can do is primarily based on what we say to our self about our self now. We can change what we are saying to our self about our self, when, Elizabeth? Right now, at this moment. What’s so wonderful about the brain is the brain believes everything you tell it. When I said to myself, “I’m replacing these messages of “I’m dumb in math,” with “I love teaching math. It’s fun. The more I teach it, the more brilliant I get.” The brain says, “You’re right. You’re absolutely true. I believe it.” What happens is that you lock onto those new messages and your brain rewires itself. This is called neuroplasticity by the work of Dr. Eric Kandel.

Steve, if you were going to talk to him, what would you ask him?

Don't be upset if you create a goal and it doesn't work out at first. It will! Share on X

How did he come up with the fact that everything we can do is based on what we say to our self about our self now? That’s tricky because for decades, Floridians would say, “The way you are is because of your childhood and the way our brain works, the brain says, “Yes, you’re absolutely right and makes it true.”” How did he switch that? He said, “No, the way you are now is based on what you’re saying yourself now.” How did you come up with your self-talk? Self-talk is incredibly important because the brain believes what you tell it. I asked, “How did you come up with that? How did he deliver that?”

Who should be listening?

This applies to anyone who wants to grow. This applies to business people. This applies to drug addicts. This applies to mothers, grandmothers and people who run in families. It applies to anyone who says, “I want to grow in this area or that area. I want to be better here. I want to be better there.” The wonderful thing about the brain is the brain says, “Okay,” and it finds ways for it to become true.

This takes us to the title of our show. I confess there was a piece of me that said, “I didn’t want to start the New Year with goals.” Except that I know you and I know that your work really works. I know you’ve been speaking for a long time about how to create a goal that you’ll achieve. I’m speaking as somebody who gave up on the word goals because mostly because, it was like, “What was that goal weight? I never got to a goal. I’m still not at that goal weight.” I’m one of those people who also join Weight Watchers in the January special and drops out that same ten pounds. I lose that ten pounds. I gained it back again. I’ve been thinking, somewhere underneath there, my brain is telling me, “Join Weight Watchers, but it’s $44 a month out.” It’s never going to work. Help, how do we do a goal that will work?

First of all, I always tell my clients this, “Don’t be surprise when you create this goal and it doesn’t work at first.” I’ll tell you how to make career goals that work. Your brain doesn’t want you to lose that weight, Elizabeth. The brain doesn’t want you to change. The brain wants to keep you the same. The brain looks upon change as risky because it’s different and your brain’s job is to keep you safe. Don’t be surprised when people all set up these wonderful goals and they don’t get met because the brain, if you don’t create the goal correctly so that it works, the brain’s going to fight you tooth and nail for that goal to become a part of you. That’s number one. That should make you feel better. You’re not alone. Everyone experienced that. That’s why most New Year’s resolutions don’t work.

Maybe the best way to begin with this is a true story. My wife and I had been married for many years and for the first ten, she smoked. She would smoke in the morning. Every January she says, “This is the year I’m going to stop smoking.” She would stop for maybe a week or two weeks and she’d go back to smoking. Why is that? This is key. She never saw herself as a nonsmoker. She never said, “I am a nonsmoker.” She said, “I’m a smoker, who doesn’t smoke.” That doesn’t make sense to her brain. The brain said, “If you’re a smoker, you smoke.” She did that for a long time.

Finally, one summer she flew back to watch her father died of emphysema. I picked her up at the airport. She looked at me and she said, “You are looking at a nonsmoker.” She hasn’t smoked since. What happened? While she watched her father die, she said, “I am replacing this self-image of a smoker with one who is a nonsmoker.” Her brain said, “Is it true? I don’t care. All I care about is what you’re telling.” That’s extreme. Most people aren’t going to watch their father die to create a goal. Let me share with you the techniques to create goals that work.

SWGR Campbell | Creating Goals That Work


What I do think is key is this is dealing with a physical addiction too. The whole thing about food and so forth, it’s an addiction to sugar. Saying to myself, “I am fit and trim. Can I take a pill and be twenty pounds lighter and strong?” This is what American society wants us to do and leads us to believe.

First of all, most of the goals that we verbalize are verbalized incorrectly. My father died when he was very young and Mary said to me, “If you die early, I’ll kill you because I don’t want to be with her for 40 years like your mom’s going to be which she was.” I was 40 pounds more than I weigh now. I said, “I need to lose this weight.” I’d get up and run and swim. I would lose maybe two or three pounds a week and get it all back on the weekend. I did that for 25 years. I could not lose weight. I would exercise and I’d gain it all back.

Let me share with you a story that illustrates what does works. My father died when he was very young. Mary said to me as we were driving from the memorial service, “If you die early, I will kill you because I do not want to be a widow for 40 years.” I was about 40 pounds more than I weigh now. I would get up and swim and run. I would lose maybe three or four pounds a week. I would gain it back on the weekend. I did that for 25 years. The reason I could not lose weight is because of this. I would look at myself in the mirror, Elizabeth and I would say to myself, “You are a 240-pound man who’s got to lose 40 pounds.”

When I said, “You are a 240-pound man,” do you know what my brain said? “Yes, you are. I believe everything you tell it but not only that, I’ll make sure that you stay at 240 pounds because that’s how you see yourself as reflected by that’s what you’re saying to yourself about yourself.” It worked. I didn’t lose weight. After 25 years of this, I said, “This isn’t working for me.” I began studying psychology. I began studying other things and Gestalt Psychology. I realized that I was giving myself the wrong message.

I was saying, “You are a 240-pound man.” My brain said, “Yes, you are and I’ll keep you there.” I created what is called an affirmation. Affirmation has gotten a lot of bad press and affirmation is not magical. It is simply a statement that when written correctly triggers a picture in your mind of a goal as if it has already been accomplished. I wrote an affirmation and it said, “I weighed 200 pounds and I look fantastic.” When I first wrote it, my brain freaked out. It said, “Steve, reality check here, look at the scale. Look at the mirror, you don’t weight 200 pounds, you weigh 240.”

That’s when I said to myself, “No, I’m locking on to 200. That’s how I see myself.” Every single time I sit down for a meal, I say to myself, “I’m a 200-pound person so don’t eat like a 240-pound individual.” Was that easy at first? Of course not because I’ve been telling myself these negative messages for years. I switched it and I said, “I look great at 200 pounds.” When I sat down for a meal, I ask myself, “How does a 200-pound person eat?” He doesn’t have all the butter, the crackers, the desserts and all of the other stuff. He has a meal and a lot of water. Here’s what happens. The more I did that, the more my brain rewired itself to the point where I saw myself in my brain at 200 pounds, even though at first, I was 240, 235 and 230. Eventually, the weight came down. The key to keeping these goals alive is that you’re seeing yourself as it’s already there.

When you notice your negative thinking, turn it around with, 'I used to think that, but I don't anymore.' Share on X

Let me ask you then a follow-up question. If this is a business and this show is about presentation skills to get people to do what you want them to do, to speak to get a result and this is the foundation of all of that. How do you use this when setting a goal to get other people to do what you want them to do?

First of all, you need to give them your vision. They need to see what you’re looking at. They need to see your mission and your vision for their company or their business. They need to have the same feelings you have. We’re not thinking people who feel. We’re feeling people who think. It’s not a matter of simply putting down a goal. It’s a matter of why is this goal here? What can it do for the company and what can it do for me? Why is it so important that this goal be created and be met? That’s the key to it. They need to see the vision. If it’s a goal that someone has set up for you, you’re not going to have any motivation to get it done. It has to come from the heart. It’s got to come from what’s your feeling.

If maybe your goal is to get more customers and clients, that’s pretty nebulous. Don’t you have to be a little bit more specific?

Yes, you do. I have a whole chapter in my book on affirmations and there are about twelve different guidelines to create an affirmation that works. One of the guidelines that I placed an emphasis on is to be specific rather than making more money, losing so much weight, replacing a relationship or improving one. How much money exactly do you want to make per month, not per year? If you want to make $120,000 in a year, what’s that per month? Which is $10,000. I put that someplace where I can see it every day. How much weight exactly do I want to lose? When I say I want to repair a relationship, what does that mean? Does that mean I call this person every day or every week or I take them out to lunch or I send them little notes? What exactly are you looking for? We need to go back to understanding that the brain doesn’t want you to meet these goals so that the fuzzier they are, the less the brain has to meet them because it doesn’t know what you’re looking for. When you’re saying, “I weigh 200 pounds and I’m 240,” but I lock onto 200 pounds, eventually my brain will say, “You’re serious about this. I need to figure out a way to make this true in your life.”

Say, “I have five new clients or I’m going to be promoted.” How would you phrase it so that it comes out as, “I will do the things it takes to?”

That’s one of the biggest reasons why affirmations don’t work. When you first write an affirmation and I have helped thousands of clients write affirmations. They usually start with a statement, not an affirmation. A statement is, “I have five clients per month.” Do you know what your brain says to that? It goes to sleep. Who cares? That doesn’t get me excited because what you’re doing is you are competing with what you’ve been doing in the past. When I said I weigh 200 pounds, my brain yawned because it didn’t care. When I began saying, “Look at me, I look fantastic. This is so neat.” The brain gets up and says, “That’s exciting. Let’s figure out a way to get there.” The key is to make this affirmation so exciting, thrilling and something that gets you jazzed up that your brain can’t possibly imagine going back to the old way. It always has to be and this is important.

SWGR Campbell | Creating Goals That Work

Making Your Mind Magnificent: Use the New Brain Science to Transform Your Life: End Negative Thinking, Improve Focus and Clarity, and Be Happier

How do we make these goals exciting? If you say, “I look fabulous at only 200 pounds.” How would it be for getting people to promote you?

What you need to do in terms of getting people to promote you is to show them why and what you can do in terms of after you are promoted. What is so exciting about you that promotion is something that’s so normal and natural? They need to get as excited about it as you are. One of the keys to doing that is changing from the future to the present. If you have a goal that says, “I will have five new clients starting in 2020.” The brain says, “Good luck. I hope you do. That’s wonderful.” What you want to say is, “I’ve got five clients already in the wings. They’re already there. I just need to find them. I need to find out where they are because they’re waiting to become one of my best clients and do share with everyone else the amazing service that I can give to them.”

It needs to be in the present tense. Never the future, “I will someday.” The brain says, “I hope you do. It sounds great. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” When you say, “I’m already making this money. I already have these clients. I’ve already made these trips. I’m already there” and you’re not there. This is where getting into gestalt psychology, your brain says, “I don’t like gaps.” That’s gestalt. “I hate gaps. We got to close the gap.” If you don’t have the five clients but you’re saying that you do, your brain will find a way to get those clients on your side. The brain finds a way, but you need to put it in the present tense.

My brain is saying, “This is nonsense. This will never work.”

What you want to keep reminding yourself is because people get down on themselves when they say this and it says to their negative self-talk, they’re not alone. Most of what we say to our self is negative stuff. This isn’t anyone. This is a characteristic of the human trait. It began with Shad Helmstetter’s book, What To Say When You Talk to Yourself. It’s been validated all around the world. Most of our self-talk is negative. That doesn’t mean it has to be. When we become aware of the negative stuff we’re saying to our self, we can say, “I used to think that way. Not anymore. I am thinking this way.” You lock onto it and it becomes a natural way of thinking. It becomes your mindset. It becomes who you are and that’s what’s so exciting about this. You don’t have to think about it.

Steve, can you talk about how this has helped clients of yours or people you’ve worked with?

When making a goal, you have to start with an affirmation. Share on X

I have done a lot of work with insurance companies. I find that if the agents write down exactly how much money they want to make, how many clients they want to have, how many trips and put them someplace where they can see them. More and more of those agents get what they want. If you don’t have those goals, the brain won’t know what to look for. When you have that goal in front of you, the brain says, “We need to find a way to put in that extra $10,000 for this month or make that extra $10,000.” It always has to be in front of you because if it’s not, you’ll forget about it because you get so caught up in everyday living.

It’s that first thing in the morning looking at it or put it up everywhere around your house. If your family thinks you’re crazy, they’ll stop thinking you’re crazy when you’re bringing in an extra $10,000, $20,000 a month.

I do a lot of work with realtors and they do the same thing. This one realtor said to me, “I made a model of the house I wanted right down to the bushes and the trees.” Lo and behold, when I was showing the house, I turned the corner and there it was. I bought it myself because I knew that was what I was looking for. That’s why goals are so important because if you don’t create goals for yourself, the brain won’t know what to look for. People who are the luckiest are the people who have created goals for themselves, so when that thing comes along, they grab it because that’s part of where they want to be.

Are there ways to get help with this? One of the things my brain tells me is you’ll never be able to do this alone. Let’s say I know from experience that accountability is what will make these changes.

Reading books can help. I recommend my own book, Making Your Mind Magnificent. Psychology Today has got a wonderful website that has all the articles they’ve ever written and they’re classified with that. Talk to people who have already been there or who you admire. Listen to radio programs. The internet has got some wonderful things. There are ways to look at.

Steven, I noticed you are not talking about your online course. Please tell us about this.SWGR Campbell | Creating Goals That Work

I’ve been teaching an all-day course for many years. I had open-heart surgery and my daughter sat me down and she said, “Daddy, you can’t be traveling around.” She videotaped the all-day course that I give in Silicon Valley and it’s available now on the internet.

It’s available on your website, which is

It’s available there. People love it.

The reason I started working with you is because people said, “Life-changing.” That was the thing that came up over and over again. Steven Campbell, this is so much fun. I know that you’ve got You also have a radio show. Can we hear that over the internet?

Yes, you can. In fact, it is over the internet. It’s It’s on Wednesdays from 9:00 to 11:00. I have a specific subject that I talk about, but I also have very mellow music in between. I love mellow music.

Steven Campbell, this has been so amazing to do. Thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth. I appreciate it.

Don’t forget to go to where you can take our short assessment to see where your presentation skills are good. I’ll see you at the next one.


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About Steven Campbell

SWGR Campbell | Creating Goals That WorkSteven Campbell is an author, speaker and mentor. After writing his seminal book, “Making Your Mind Magnificent,” he now teaches audiences how our brains conform to the messages we give them. He then shows how we can flip negative thinking and actually embrace change to realize our dreams.

Steven acquired his Master’s at the University of San Francisco to pursue his greatest love; teaching. For the last 30 years, he has been presenting easy to understand principles about the brain that can be immediately applied to improve the quality of our thoughts and lives.

He is also a regular speaker for the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, as well as a radio host and an adjunct instructor at Sonoma State University.