Why you shouldn’t want to quit your job …

Today I’m going to be a heretic.

I’m going to argue against a goal many of you express for becoming a copywriter.

Of course, all of us have become copywriters for the financial freedom copywriting provides … and the freedom to live our lives the way we want.

But, if you push just a little deeper, many new AWAI members also say things like …

 … “So I can get out from under the slavery of the 9-to-5 grind!”

 … “So I can stop commuting 3 hours a day!”

 … “So I can tell my boss to …”

Sound familiar?

I’ve been hearing these goals for years at Bootcamp. And a week ago, I got a response to one of my articles in The Writer’s Life about setting goals. One of the thoughtful responders said her goal was, “So I’ll be able to quit my day job.”

Here’s my “heresy.” These statements make good reasons for becoming a copywriter. But, they make lousy goals.

A 30-plus-year perspective …

To learn why they make poor goals, we’ll have to go back 30-plus years to when I started teaching. Over the course of my teaching career, I taught children from 3 years to 22 years old. They all had one thing in common. They all had multiple disabilities.

Many of the students in our program exhibited severe behaviors that made it difficult for them to live, play, and work in mainstream society. Their behaviors kept them isolated.

This type of life was simply not good enough for my kids. So I studied a great deal about changing behavior. I met with good success with my students, and after about 8 years, I became an “unofficial” behavior specialist.

Being positive is more than “happy talk” …

Let’s look to Eric to see why my approach worked.

Eric was 17 years old. He’d never been toilet-trained. He’d also jump in place, clap his hands, and yell.

Before Eric entered our class, teachers used behavior programs to try to reduce these behaviors. Typically they said things like, “Eric will not jump and clap in class.” Or, “Eric will not have bathroom accidents.”

For 12 years of Eric’s life, these programs didn’t work. When he came into my classroom, I knew why.

A core principle of successful behavior management states that you cannot reduce or eliminate behaviors. We could not teach Eric not to jump and clap. To change his life, we had to reward positive behaviors that would replace the negative ones.

Eric was easy. We were able to teach him to sit and work quietly at a specific task that prepared him for working in a workshop setting. Using this approach, we also solved his bathroom problems.

Eric benefited from this crucial principle of behavior management: To eliminate unwanted behaviors, you must replace them with positive ones.

Nice story, but what does it have to do with you?

What’s this have to do with you and reaching the maximum success in your copywriting career?

Over the years working with AWAI members, I’ve found the same principle applies to writing and achieving goals.

Go back and look at the goals laid out at the beginning of this article. Superficially, they appear positive. But a deeper look reveals they’re goals to eliminate something in your life.

“I want to be a copywriter so I can quit my job” is really saying, “I don’t want to work the 9-to-5 grind anymore.”

This gets you nowhere. To make positive, steady progress, you have to find positively stated goals that get you where you want to be.

So, instead of shooting for quitting your job, you want a goal that says something like …

“By December 1, 2017, I will have 3 clients that hire me every 2 months
and 3 others that use me intermittently.”

This positive goal states something you’ll get … not something you’ll eliminate.

You can break this goal down into smaller, measurable objectives. These smaller objectives let you track your progress. You’ll be able to tell how you’re doing along your journey to success … and how to make adjustments when you need to.

You can’t really track progress this way if your goal is simply to quit your job.

More than a quibble …

I know some people might say that if you state your goal as, “I want to quit my job,” you really are planning some positive steps to get there. They might argue the positive approach I’m advocating is really a minor quibble.

It’s not! Research has shown time and again that you’re far more likely to accomplish positive goals.

State your big goals as what you want to accomplish … and not what you want to eliminate.

Do that and you’ll enjoy success just like Eric did.

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Published: November 10, 2014

7 Responses to “Why you shouldn’t want to quit your job…”

  1. Brilliant article Will and thanks. You created a shift in thinking for me with that post. I'm a poor goal-setter, and that changes today.

    I don't have "a day job" to quit. There is no safety net here. The "positive changes" idea may be the key for me.

    David Tomen

  2. Thanks Will.
    You made me think positively about my goals for 2015.

    Have a good day.
    K.S. Ralph


  3. Hi Will,

    Powerful breakfast for my mind and heart. I thought it was just "my silly way" of goal attainment.

    Whenever, I approached a goal from a stand point of "running away from something" the goal seemed more difficult to achieve. But, when my approach is "moving towards something I want" the results are in my favor. I cannot claim, "oh, yeah, always get my goal", but most of the time works for me, and most importantly, I enjoy the fresh and warm breeze of the journey.

    Great stuff!


    Guest (Heacutector)

  4. ...500 characters were not enough!


    you mentioned:"Research has shown time and again that you’re far more likely to accomplish positive goals."

    Would you please be kind enough to share some references? I want to read about it.


    I've trying to find a topic/niche to put my AWAI knowledge into practice, but too many cobwebs to deal with.

    This article has sparked some flame that could lead me through the underground dark tunnel to reach the light I can see at the end.

    Thx Héctor

    Guest (Heacutector)

  5. Luckily, I had already stumbled onto this insight before I read Will Newman's article. I have a clear goal firmly fixed in my mind. Now, I am moving through the "Accelerated Copywriting;" its own form of Bootcamp. Lots and lots of reading, copying texts. Yet, surprisingly to me, I am beginning to really enjoy it. Saw the National Geographic program "Genius" about Picasso. One memorable scene - his wife opened his studio door. Picasso was very clear. "I'm working!"His wife quickly shut the door.


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