It's not the win. It's why we win.
Goals are important. They help us with purpose and drive and keep us going when things get challenging. Still, when we measure everything by the boxes we ticked, we risk being driven solely by performance.
You will probably be wondering what's wrong about that. After all, in the last 40 years, we have seen the word plastered on billboards and food labels alike. We are constantly reminded to be at our best: fit, slim, strong, focused, ready to take on the world. Every year we judge ourselves, and we are judged, on the objectives we have reached in both our professional and personal life. The reward becomes what we live for, and if it doesn't materialise, it makes us at best "bad losers".
The inherent risks of this mindset are several. To start with, it can drive us to bend the rules, cut corners and make questionable decisions. Think about the financial crises of 2008. If we are told that profit is the end goal, well, why shouldn't we sell toxic financial assets or properties to people with no income?
And what about the effect on our health? Under constant mental and physical pressure, we worry we might lose our job and livelihood to somebody more determined than us; we may feel unworthy and unappreciated. Besotted by the narrative of quick wins, too often we fail to acknowledge that every success story is a journey - a string of trial and error, moments of despair punctuated by small triumphs.
Free from the pressure of the win, people with a Mastery mindset show high levels of engagement (and performance), thirst for knowledge and resiliency in the face of failure; all qualities beneficial in times of crisis.
What if there was a better way to achieve that goal that felt out of our reach? What if we could concentrate on the process and growing into the best we can be instead of keeping our eyes on the prize?
Welcome to a Mastery orientation when the focus is on improvement - becoming more competent and highly skilled - and on learning what will help us to perform better. Free from the pressure of the win, people with a Mastery mindset show high levels of engagement (and performance), thirst for knowledge and resiliency in the face of failure; all qualities beneficial in times of crisis. Lack of visibility is undoubtedly a possible risk of when it comes to reaching our objectives. More willing to roll up their sleeves and not too bothered to be in the limelight, those who naturally lean towards Mastery believe they will be noticed and rewarded and therefore too often forget to communicate their successes, losing out on well-deserved opportunities.
Performance orientation is boastful and draws attention. Competitive people are self-promoting, opportunistic - preferring to avoid risks rather than getting the blame; and "storytellers"- ready to bend the truth to make sure they always shine.
Still, the benefits of Mastery approach far outweigh those of a Performance orientation. More externally focused, it is about how we want to be perceived rather than who we are. The sense of self-worth, as a consequence, is intrinsically linked to winning or losing. Performance orientation is boastful and draws attention. Competitive people are self-promoting - they can be quite subtle in the way they hint at how indispensable they are; opportunistic - preferring to avoid risks rather than getting the blame; and "storytellers"- ready to bend the truth to make sure they always shine. Unfortunately, because of the 'winning no matter what' attitude, most people with a competitive edge miss on learning opportunities that would eventually support them in the role they aspire to, making them less confident and unprepared to face challenges.
In the end, I feel all comes down to gaining clarity around our definition of success. If it is about showing the world how good we are, we will move from challenge to challenge to satisfy that temporary feeling of triumph and elation. While this keeps us motivated and competitive, it carries with it a significant risk: by continuously moving the goalpost, we cannot help but feel a let down because we still have to achieve our latest goal. We would be so affected by the outcome that any defeat, no matter how small would risk knocking our self-esteem and ultimately affecting our future performance.
On the other hand, if our idea of success is how to be the best we can, each victory will be a moment in time where we acquire knowledge of who we are and how we can overcome our limitations or obstacles. Surprisingly we will also be able to incorporate our "failures" and see them as part of that "step by step" process that adds to our growth. No need to display trophies or medals because each experience - successful or unsuccessful - will contribute to creating our roadmap for the future from where we emerge time and again more energised and confident to face new challenges.