Sidestep the Goals that Make You Fail

Quote on letterboard Do something today that your future self will thank you for

There’s an ongoing debate in our writing community …

And the topic is heated, with passionate writers planted firmly on either side of the fence.

The issue?

Well, on the surface you’d call it goals. And the argument is whether you should make any.

But what’s really at stake here, more than any other single thing, is ensuring you REACH the life you’re looking to live.

The truth is … there’s only one way to approach it, and I’m about to tell you how.

This information isn’t based solely on my opinion, though.

I’ve interviewed and sat with dozens of high-power, millionaire writers. And I’ve gotten to know hundreds of promising, eager writers with gallons of potential who’ve made their writing dreams happen fast.

They’ve all had varied approaches toward goal setting.

But there is one single, noticeable trend in all their success stories …

This Will Leave You Spinning

The whole point behind setting goals is to get yourself on a trajectory of success.

Just think about all the things you’ve probably heard in the past …

If you don’t have any goals, how will you know where you’re going?

Without a goal, how can you keep yourself accountable?

What’s the point of life without an end goal?

This is the side of the coin that advocates toward big goals with timelines — i.e., your 10-year goal, your five-year goal, your yearly, monthly, and weekly goals, and your money timeline.

And then there’s the flipside …

Do your best each day and the rest will take care of itself.

Too many goals set you up for guaranteed failure.

Achieving a goal is temporary, leaving you to start all over again once achieved.

This other approach focuses more on your satisfaction arc, and on capturing enough consistent and steady success to fuel yourself for the long haul, both in terms of skill and the will to continue.

So what’s a writer with the best intentions and the grandest hopes to do?

Get Out of the Doomed Gray Area

Here’s how you lay the groundwork for guaranteed wins in the world of paid writing.

First, consider the problems each goal approach has:

If you set too many goals, or near-impossible goals, or even simple goals that just don’t work out … then you risk setting yourself up for failure.

Or suspecting you’re a failure.

Or feeling like a failure.

But if you set no goals at all, then you may never make it to that next level. You may never know what you could have done if you’d set your sights just a little higher and committed.

And instead you stay stagnant.

The solution?

It’s the middle road. It’s a total embrace of both approaches, but wholly dependent on timing.

By timing, I mean both where you are in your writing career (just starting out? Been doing it a decade?), and where you are in life.

Think of it like the bull-versus-bear market analogy. There are times to press forward determinedly, and times to just hold on and stay in the game.

Setting goals can help you with lift-off, like landing that first paid writing project, or leaving a full-time job to write for a living.

But they must be paired with a life awareness. By that, I mean where you stand financially, or health-wise, or family-wise.

Because the risk in setting big goals is that you plant yourself solidly in one direction, and then life factors swoop in to change your route.

Which could leave you feeling more like a failure than you’d think, even as you’re fully aware your change in circumstances wasn’t your fault.

Take our global pandemic, for example. It’s changed a lot of things for a lot of people — sometimes in good ways, sometimes not.

Plenty of new writers are landing projects left and right since businesses that never bothered before suddenly have to go digital and they need a lot of help.

Other writers find they suddenly can’t work on their writing projects at their usual pace, either because of kids who are now home full-time or changes to their normal workday routines.

The Hidden Middle Plane

Here’s a goal approach that has worked for some of the most successful, richest writers I know, and can work for you too — especially during these weird times in our world.

  1. Set “range goals.” This is where you still set one big goal, but you make it flexible. Maybe you were hoping to earn a certain amount through writing this year … instead of a single figure, give yourself some padding on either side: I will earn between $60,000 and $80,000 with my writing this year.
  2. No day but today. Instead of looking toward the future, think about your daily process. Come up with a few wins you know you can achieve in the course of a day, like writing 500 words in a single session. Consistent daily progress will add up.
  3. Power of One reworked. AWAI Co-Founder Mark Ford’s Power of One approach, where you focus on one major takeaway point, will definitely strengthen your writing. But it will also strengthen the reach of each day if you revamp the idea to improve your writing process by finding one way to better your work habits. That could mean waking up an hour earlier each day or not looking at social media or the news until you’ve put in a couple of hours of writing.

AWAI in-house writer Tim Matassa took a unique approach to setting goals and went a year without any. He wrote about it in our latest issue of Barefoot Writer magazine, which is also packed with tips on how you can help yourself carve out small wins every day and month.

If you’re already a Barefoot Writer Club Member, go here to read our July issue. If you’d like to join us and learn about Tim’s approach (which I’m adopting this year), please join us here.

Are you ready to make progress as a copywriter? Let us know in the comments so we can guide you to more resources.

The Barefoot Writer

The Barefoot Writer

Discover a lucrative style of writing that will give you as much freedom as you can have while earning a great income at the same time. Learn More »


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Published: July 28, 2020

1 Response to “Sidestep the Goals that Make You Fail”

  1. I think this could change my life, I’ve had a hard time holding on to jobs because of my disability and when I tell my boss I need to be able to take time off to recover when ever, that’s when I know they will find any way they can to fire me. so now that I am in this for one year I will do the best I can do and never doubt myself because I’m different. I have looked at those words that are written on my arm in ink “BELIEVE IN YOURSELF” I haven’t taken that advice for to long but now I will.

    Mind writing2July 28, 2020 at 11:53 am


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