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I stumbled on a couple of concepts that deserve mulling: performance goals vs. learning goals, described by Stanford University researcher Carol Dweck, and willpower as emotion, described by Michael Inzlicht, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.

Dweck’s work notes that learning goals help us work beyond mistakes and failure while performance goals can stop us before our efforts can lead to improved outcomes.

Inzlicht’s research, or my understanding of it, suggests that willpower comes and goes, much like happiness, anger, etc.

This week, I’ll keep learning goals in mind, as I work on the things that have challenged me lately (writing a successful query letter to an agent, for example). Also this week, I’ll recognize that in the face of ebbing willpower (sometimes it’s really challenging to reach for the fizzy water and not the glass of wine), there are strategies to deploy and keep me on track until the willpower circles back around. In other words, not a failure of character, just the normal cycling of my feelings.

For help with the agent querying, I’m delving into the great advice of agent Janet Reid, whose web site is really helpful and whose Query Shark blog is harsh but good education.