While reading The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel, PhD, I picked up a little tip on how to frame goals so that they’re more likely to motivate us in our songwriting goals. As we songwriters know, a simple change in phrasing can make all the difference.
As Steel relates, there are two types of goals.
Avoidance goals are phrased with words like “Don’t” and “Not” and “No”. They admonish you not to do certain things but they don’t offer any constructive help as to what you should do. These tend to be discouraging.
Approach goals point toward things you can actually do. Compared to avoidance goals, they’re much more likely to motivate you.
EXAMPLES OF AVOIDANCE GOALS
- Stop putting off practice
- Don’t leave songs unfinished
- Stop forgetting lyrics
EXAMPLES OF APPROACH GOALS
- Practice for 25 minutes every day
- Choose one song to focus on and finish by Sunday night
- Spend time memorizing lyrics so you can remember them under stress
How to rewrite goals
The avoidance goals sound helpless; they don’t suggest anything you can do to reach the goal. They lead to inaction. But when you miss a chord change or fumble a lyric — as I’ve done in live performances over the years — it’s easy to slip into this kind of thinking. “Don’t mess this one up again,” I mutter to myself before playing the opening chords of that new song. This isn’t helpful.
Do you tend to make avoidance goals or approach goals? You can easily flip from avoidance to approach by turning the phrase from negative to positive:
Turn “I don’t want to write another ballad” to “I want to write something upbeat and energetic”.
Turn “I don’t want to make so many mistakes live” to “I want to memorize and practice my songs to perfection”.
Turn “I don’t want to write another cliched love song” into “I want to write a love song that’s got an interesting twist”.
The Procrastination Equation is a deep and thorough look at how and why we procrastinate. It’s also full of tips for overcoming procrastination.