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Approach Goals and Avoidance Goals — Group Brainstorm

Happy Friday or Saturday — or whenever you’re reading this :)

I want some help puzzling something out. But first . . .

An Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting?

I’m working on an “Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting.” Two weeks ago my plan was to publish the post by today. However, as I started writing and researching, I realized it was quite a rabbit hole, and I don’t want to do a half-arsed job on it. If I have my way, it will be the most useful piece of advice you read this year.

So I’m plugging away: writing, researching, and letting things marinate. It might be weeks still before the ultimate guide is truly “ultimate”. Stay tuned and be patient. I think it will be worth it.

Along the way I plan to post other useful items on goal setting (useful principles and things to try). This will help me think through the issues and give you some things to try while you’re waiting for the ultimate guide. The field of Work Motivation has undergone a complete renaissance in the last 15 years, and I want to bring the best of it to you right here.

So what would it mean to have an ultimate guide to goal setting? It might mean you could:

  • Make more money, so you can achieve financial security, have freedom to do what you want with your time, and help friends out when they need it.
  • Create cool stuff, stuff that adds value to the world (Could you create a piece of art that expresses your core values? Could you start a social group that changes the world? Do you have a novel or screenplay to write?)
  • Establish healthful habits so you can live a more energetic, happier, more productive, and hopefully longer life.
  • Collect stories of adventure to tell your grandkids – stories the grandkids would actually want to listen to and tell their friends about.
  • Look forward to social gatherings such as parties, family reunions, and seminars, with no fear of the “So what do you do?” or “so what have you been working on lately?” questions.

And what would be covered in an ultimate guide to goal setting? What would you come away with?

  1. You would understand the psychology of goal setting.
  2. You would learn which common goal setting traps to avoid — traps that lead to procrastination instead of motivation.
  3. You would have an easy, step-by-step method for taking a vague idea about what you want to accomplish and turning it into a laser-focused goal that makes you want to leap out of bed in the morning.
  4. You would know how to set your goals so they’re neither too high nor too low — so you can get the most out of yourself without adding more stress to your days.
  5. You would know the best way to break down your goals for effective execution.
  6. You would know the best mindset to have as you pursue your goals.

The guide, when finished will be published completely free right here. I only ask that if you find it useful, you pass it on to friends.

So that’s that.

Now for the brainstorming question . . .

Please post your thoughts in the comments section.

Paul Myers just sent out the following message to his newsletter (BTW, Paul’s Talkbiz news is about the only marketing list I’m consistently happy to receive in my email inbox).

Hi, folks...

Ask yourself this one question about every activity you
do in business, and you'll find your productivity soaring:

Am I doing this to achieve something...
or to avoid something?

Answer honestly, and proceed accordingly.

Try it today, and let me know what happens.


Now Paul is not normally so cryptic. He usually rambles on for pages and pages (which is just fine, because he writes so well).

But he went the zen master “one hand clapping” route today.

So here are some questions:

  1. What does Paul consider an approach goal or activity?
  2. What does Paul consider an avoidance goal or activity?
  3. How does knowing the difference make such a dramatic difference for productivity?

I should say that this is not a rhetorical question. I’m truly looking for your insights here.

It’s not that I don’t understand the course of action Paul is recommending. That’s quite clear.

It’s not that I doubt it works. Probably does.

I’m just not sure I understand why it would work so well.

In part I wonder if I’m fully understanding what Paul would consider an “avoidance activity” (Is it something I’m doing to get away from a bad outcome — in which case I may need to do it anyway? Or is it something I’m doing to avoid doing what I’m supposed to be doing — in which case it’s clear I need to stop doing those activities?).

If it’s the latter, then I’m probably already doing what Paul is recommending, and that’s why I can’t see why it would lead to great gains in productivity for me, but might for someone who hasn’t learned to recognize and counteract procrastination behaviors.

If it’s the former, then maybe Paul’s advice is revolutionary in a way I can’t see right now.

Share your initial thoughts below. And then let me ask you a final question. Are you willing to try his advice for a few days and report back here?

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