Friday Speak Out!: Approaching Success or Avoiding Failure?, Guest Post by Rochelle Melander

Friday, January 06, 2012
 People with goals succeed because they know where they're going.
—Earl Nightingale

Right before Thanksgiving, I signed up for the Y’s annual Holiday Trimmings Challenge. Members who participate try to maintain their weight over the holidays. When I weighed in, it was clear that the sedentary tasks of writing and marketing my book had taken its toll. Despite exercising regularly, I had gained weight.

I vowed to lose the weight by the New Year weigh in. I knew what I had to do. As I walked and ran on the treadmill, I repeated my goals like a mantra: “Stop drinking wine. Give up sugar and bread. No more chocolate. Give up bread. Lose the afternoon lattes. I should exercise harder to avoid gaining any more weight.”

For the next week, all I could think about was the stuff I’d given up. When I wasn’t thinking about my NaNoWriMo project, I was craving bread, sugar, a latte, chocolate and wine—in any order and a lot of it. Thankfully, I had not cleaned out the cupboards. We still had Halloween candy, and I had a secret stash of NaNo chocolate.

Shortly after National Novel Writing Month ended, my coaching brain woke up and reminded me: avoidance goals rarely work. People who set avoidance goals don’t perform well. In addition, people who set avoidance goals are more anxious and less happy. They experience a decreased self-esteem, personal control, and vitality.

As writers, our avoidance goals tend to be something like these:

*I will sell a book this year so that I can finally get out of my dead-end job.

*I will not participate in social media until I have written three query letters.

*I need to stop watching so much television at night and write more.

All three of the above goals focus on avoiding something. We do better when our goal helps us approach a desirable outcome rather than avoid an undesirable outcome. But do not fret dear writers. Change the wording a bit (Hey! You are good at that!), and create an approach goal. The three goals above become:

*I will work for ten hours a week to sell my book to an agent or publisher so that I can achieve my dream of becoming a full-time writer.

*I write three query letters a day and then reward myself with time on social media.

*I will write for an hour when I get home from work so that I can achieve my goal of finishing my book.

When we phrase our goals as approach goals, we automatically increase our chances of achieving them. When we set an approach goal, we know what steps we need to take to be successful—contact ten agents, write three query letters, write for an hour. Thus, we can more easily manage our work towards achieving the goal. Also, when we work toward achieving an approach goal, we focus on the positive actions we can take versus the negative ones we must avoid. This increases our sense of well-being. In other words, we feel better and do better.

As for me, I’ve revamped my wellness goals. I’m no longer worrying about avoiding wine and chocolate. Instead, I am concentrating on the good treats I can add to my menu: fruits, vegetables and dark chocolate. I’m also working toward some fun fitness goals, which is much more fun that running to avoid gaining weight! As you think about your 2012 writing goals, consider setting approach versus
avoidance goals. You will know where you are going and increase your chances of success. (And have more fun!)

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Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander teaches professionals how to write faster, get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at .

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



J.C. Nierad said...

Thank you for your post, Rochelle! I tried to focus on setting positive writing resolutions this year, but had never heard of this strategy being called setting "approach"goals -- I really like this phrasing. I've set up an online vision board on my blog to accompany my 2012 approach goals; I look at it every day and can take it anywhere the internet goes! J.C. Nierad

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