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What Kind of Achiever Are You?

Are you chasing dreams or avoiding nightmares?

Source: Bloomua/Shutterstock

There are two types of achievers: those who chase dreams and those who avoid nightmares.

The ones who chase dreams work hard on their goals, they stay focused and motivated, and at the end of they day, they are happier.

The ones who avoid nightmares work equally hard, but they get confused, distracted, and frustrated a lot. At the end of the day, they never feel like they have achieved enough.

What is different between the two types of achievers?

It is not their genetic make-up. Is is not their upbringing. It is not their personality.

It is simply the kinds of goals that they set.

There are two kinds of goals.

Promotion Goals and Prevention Goals.

Promotion goals are about the things you want to achieve. They express your desire to accomplish something, to be somewhere, or to become someone. They move you toward something.

At work, for example, promoters set goals like “I want to get a raise,” “I want to expand my client base,” or “I want to get a promotion.”

Promotion goals help you create better plans, exert more effort, and stay more focused. They make it easy to track your progress, and even easier to know when you are getting off course and need to realign.

Prevention goals are about the things you want to avoid. They are about preventing negative outcomes and steering clear of uncomfortable situations. You know what you don’t want. You know where you don’t want to be.

At work, preventers set goals like “I don’t want to lose my job” or “I hope I don’t get a negative review.” What motivates them to do a good job is the fear of a bad evaluation or a pink slip.

A promotion goal gives you clarity. You know what you want. The challenge when you set a prevention goal, is that you are clearer about what you want to change, but fuzzier about what you want to change it into. And that means the risk of getting stuck or starting to spin without ever seeing results, is much higher.

A promotion goal is like setting your destination on your GPS. You know where you want to go, you enter the precise location on the GPS, and you get directions how to get there. If you want to go to the beach, you enter the name of the beach, or find where the nearest beach is. Then you have a plan. You follow your plan and you get to the beach.

A prevention goal, on the other hand, sounds more like “Get me out of the city” without telling the GPS exactly where you want to go. The GPS won’t give you directions, you may never leave your house at all, or you may spend the day in your car driving around aimlessly for hours, getting lost, running out of gas, and ending up in a really horrible place.

Prevention goals are always “on.” They are an endless pursuit of something that by definition may not be accomplishable.

The truth is that all of us think as promoters at one time and preventers at another. Being able to recognize when we are being promoters and when we are being preventers is tricky, but also invaluable. How you phrase your goals can obscure your intentions, delay implementation, and make it easier to give up.

Here is how to tell the difference between promotion and prevention goals:

  1. Do vs. Don’t: Promotion goals tell you what to do. They lead to action. Prevention goals tell you what not to do. They lead to inaction and lack of direction.

  2. Face vs. Avoid: Promotion goals encourage you to confront a situation. Prevention goals strive to steer you clear of a situation.

  3. Start vs. Stop: Promotion goals initiate action. They set things in motion. Prevention goals block action. They leave you with nothing to do.

  4. Gain vs. Lose: Promotion goals focus on getting something that you don’t have. Prevention goals focus on keeping something that you already have.

What kind of achiever are you? The one who chases dreams or the one who runs away from nightmares?

To learn more about how dreamers become achievers, check out Brainblocks: Overcoming the 7 Hidden Barriers to Success (Penguin, 2015).

If you don’t have time to read an entire book but still want to know what the brainblocks are and how dreamers become achievers, check out scenes from my speech at St. John’s College in Annapolis.

And if procrastination is getting in the way of doing either, get a free copy of my ebook Getting Things Done SOONERR™!

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