Interesting Thought: The Best Goal is to Keep Getting Better
Rather than having a goal of being the best at something, have a goal of being the best at getting better.
Too often, people focus on achieving a specific end result or some sort of external benchmark. This is problematic whether you accomplish the mark or fail to accomplish the mark:
If you succeed in accomplishing your goal, then what happens next? Many would-be productive careers have been cut short not because of failure but because of success. Someone accomplishes a big goal and then becomes arrogant or complacent (or both). They bask in the success for a bit too long, and before they know it, they've stagnated.
If you fail to accomplish your goal, then what happens next? Do you get discouraged and burnt out, maybe even quitting your pursuit? Do you become anxious or depressed? Do you cheat or engage in other unethical behavior to avoid failing again?
Any way you cut it, being too caught up in a result is a recipe for disaster. But if you are predominantly focused on the process of getting better, you become more resilient to both successes and failures, which shift from being singularly defining events to waypoints on a broader path of continual progression. This manner of pursuing progress is not only the healthiest, but also the most likely to result in lasting peak performance.
How can you apply this mindset in your own life?
Select a specific capacity or area of your life in which you want to grow. Be intentional and remember, it's really hard to take on too many challenges at the same time.
Assess where you currently stand. Be honest in your self-evaluation. Perhaps even ask trusted friends, colleagues, or advisors who you know will give you a blunt answer.
Ask yourself: what's the next logical step? A common trap is to take on too much too soon. Don't fall for it. Remember that small progress in the short-term leads to big progress in the long-term.
Focus on nailing whatever incremental objective you came up with. Once you have, ask yourself what is the next logical step, and then go about nailing that. It's this sort of upward spiral that you're after.
If you are in a competitive field, avoid comparing yourself to others. Doing so only leads to insecurity, which either makes you sad or makes you reckless (or sometimes both).
When you do progress through waypoints that come with measureable results, abide by the 48-hour rule: give yourself up to 48 hours to feel happy or sad, but then return to the craft. There's something magical about doing the work that puts both success and failure in their respective places.
Keep coming back to this mantra: the goal is the path and the path is the goal. Few people are remembered 100 years after they die, and even fewer are remembered 1000 years later. Pursue progress for the inner experience of mastery, not for some type of validation.
Coaching Corner: Move Towards Independence, Not Dependence
When success occurs, to what do we attribute it? Do we take full credit ourselves or acknowledge the helping hand of a mentor or coach? Does that coach claim full responsibility in creating the athlete who stands upon the podium? Does the business executive acknowledge the luck and hard work of those far below him on the food chain?
The ego coach attributes success to himself. He looks at the athlete who has proven to be successful and take complete credit for his achievements. He convinces the athlete that his brilliant training plans were the only reason that the athlete sits atop the podium. The reason for this is simple, he is trying to create dependency. When a coach works towards making an athlete feel dependent, it’s a selfish move to preserve his job or fate. Deep down the coach knows that an athlete could move on and achieve similar levels of success, so he works to ensure that the athlete is dependent on him. Dependency creates security for the ego coach.
While the aforementioned example is an extreme, coaches, and bosses, create dependency on a smaller scale all of the time. The worker who can’t move forward on his project until he gets approval from up the food chain. The coach who dictates every minute of an athlete's warm-up routine. When we create dependency, we are training our athletes or workers to be fragile.
Whenever they are faced with an unpredictable moment that jolts them from their normal pattern, they have nowhere to go. They’ve trained to be reliant on others.
Instead, we should be pushing those we have influence over to become more independent. As a coach, we want to create individuals who are self-reliant, who can deal with adversity and change. And most importantly, we want to create individuals who will grow under our watch, hopefully surpassing their mentors (that is, us) at some point in time.
The great Australian coach, Percy Cerutty, stated that he wanted his athletes to be able to move on after only a year or two. His goal was to pass on all the wisdom he had, and then hope that they flew to higher heights. In his book, How to Become a Champion, he writes:
“(My) belief is that the athlete must be developed in the end so that he be entirely self-reliant, self-dependent, able to know instinctively and understand his nature, personality trends, and his requirements in exercise and training….”
In other words, ego coaches move towards dependence, while great coaches move towards independence. Coaching in this manner means checking your ego at the door, and having security in the fact that recognition is not what matters; helping people grow as human beings does.
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