Step 2 of 5 to Success – How to Create Your Strategy

Dave_conscious_openNow that you’ve got your vision, it’s time to create your strategy. Harvard research suggests that true success only comes from a combination of vision and strategy.

Having a strategy is about creating goals. Here in Step 2, you’re going to learn the best way to set goals. That’s good news because beyond achievement, goals bring happiness.

From: Psychological Foundations of Success

Real research clearly demonstrates the beneficial effects of goals. People with highly important goals, for example, tend to be happier and more satisfied with life than those without important goals.

And how do we set goals?

There are 6 proven principles for effective goal setting.

Goals need to be:

From: Psychological Foundations of Success

#1. Challenging  

#2. Specific  

#3. Approach

#4. Measurable

#5. Proximal

#6. Inspirational

Six is a lot. To keep it short and sweet, I’m going to focus on #3, approach goals.


Because approach goals deal with emotions, and emotions heavily influence our behaviors. Also, when combined with a vision, approach goals have a tremendous impact on our entire well-being.

What are Approach Goals?

Approach goals are goals that bring us towards our desired outcome. Approach goals align with our vision. If our vision is a flashlight to light the way, our approach goals are the steps to get there.

Remember Bob, our success example? Bob envisions himself 15 pounds lighter in one year.

Any thoughts, words, or actions that Bob takes towards his vision are approach goals.

Bob’s approach goals include:

Hire a trainer.

Plan hikes and ski trips with his family.

Focus on a low carb diet.

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All of Bob’s approach goals help him turn his vision into a reality.

What’s the opposite of approach goals that can be a pitfall?

Avoidance goals.

Avoidance goals dodge the “bad”.

Common avoidance goals I’ve heard include…

“I won’t eat bad food.”

“No more soda.”

“Not gonna have chips at night.”

See the trend? All those goals are based on avoiding something “negative.”

Fortunately most people know approach goals are healthier than avoidance goals as the research shows only 10-15% of the goals people create are avoidance oriented, which is good because…

People with avoidance goals tend to…

From: Psychological Foundations of Success

Be less happy and less satisfied with life.

Experience more physical illnesses.

Be less happy when making progress toward their goals, but more upset by setbacks.

What’s so bad about avoiding the bad?

The problem with avoidance goals is they tend to get us focusing on the negative. And we tend to become overly self-critical when we don’t avoid the “bad”.

For example, let’s say Bob decides not to have any approach goals and instead, chooses one avoidance goal.

“I won’t eat any cookies! Cookies are my issue. They’ve got too many calories.”

Bob succeeds for one week. No cookies consumed. Well done!

But what happens when Bob chows one down? How’s he going to feel?

Probably like a failure.


Because Bob failed. He didn’t achieve his avoidance goal. Even if Bob avoids cookies for a month, he’s always one cookie away from failure because his avoidance goal demands perfection, which is very unrealistic.

By creating avoidance goals, we expect perfection from ourselves and may be setting ourselves up for failure.  When perfection is not achieved, disappointment arises and frustration mounts.

Then, “shoulding” happens…

“I should know better.”

“I should do better.”

“I should not have eaten those damn cookies!”

“Shoulding” denies what it means to be human and demands robotic perfection.

Too much “shoulding” on oneself is not a healthy habit because it leads to lots of guilt, shame and internal stress, which squash motivation.

(To learn how to overcome shame, click here.)

More insight on approach vs. avoidance goals…

From: Psychological Foundations of Success

Avoidance goals bring to mind negative experiences, conjuring up memories of accidents or thoughts of failures, whereas approach goals are mentally associated with positive memories and triumphs.

Approach goals trigger a desiring mindset with a focus on opportunities and possibilities.

Remember approach goals bring us to where we want to go as it aligns with our vision. Each time we accomplish an approach goal, we feel good about our success and want more success. 

In short, for successful goal setting, think APPROACH

What approach goals will get you to your vision? Write them down.

Now back to Bob.

Bob, A Real-Life Success – Step 2. Strategy

Step #1. Vision. Bob envisions a healthier future for himself. He sees himself 15 pounds lighter with a stronger core, improved work-life balance and a healthier lifestyle for next ten years.

Step #2. Strategy. Bob’s strategy is loaded with approach goals. He finds new recipes, experiments with a low carb diet, discovers safe and effective supplements, hires a trainer, plans active family outings and finds a jogging partner.

Bob furthers his success with Step #3.

Go to Step 3 of Success


  1. Step 2 to success is creating a strategy. True success only comes from a combination of vision and strategy. Having effective strategies, or goals, is important for both success and well-being.
  2. Approach goals allow us opportunities to discover ways we can align with our vision to be a success. A few avoidance goals may be OK, but a heavy focus on avoidance goals can be detrimental to well-being.
  3. When it comes to effective goal setting, think APPROACH. What approach goals align with your vision of who you want to be or what you want to achieve?
CATEGORY: Success, Well-being

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