- Lose 10 pounds.
- Earn $100,000 this year.
- Make 20 sales this month.
Those goals have to do with specific accomplishments, and they can be motivating. They can also be frustrating. When you lose just nine pounds or make 17 sales, you feel like a failure.
On the other hand, learning goals are about taking the steps that will get us to our other goals.
For example, instead of (or in addition to) the performance goal of losing 10 pounds, there could be a learning goal of discovering a fun way to exercise or learning to cook healthful meals.
I heard a presentation the other night by Keith Ferrazzi, who was talking about the concepts presented in his new book, Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success–and Won’t Let You Fail. The book is about building a few lifeline relationships in our lives, with peers who will support us, encourage us, be honest with us and ultimately not let us fail. That includes setting the goals by which you will define success. Your lifeline friends can help you identify those goals, keep you on track and hold you accountable.
One part of Keith’s talk that resonated strongly with me was about learning goals vs performance goals. In the book, he says:
Certain goals, known as “performance goals,” imply a finite result, like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But to me, far more important is developing a process and a road map that help you achieve [the goal] in a given time. In other words, you should be thinking about the rainbow, not just the pot of gold.
That is a wonderful image. How often do we get caught up in the quest for the pot of gold (sometimes almost literally) and forget about the rainbow? Performance goals are fine. They give us a target to aim at and it is satisfying to reach them. But learning goals help us the acquire the skills and knowledge we need to move toward those performance goals.
So the next time you are setting a goal, don’t just look at where you want to end up. Think about the path that will take you there, and beyond.