Learning Goals versus Performance Goals

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 29

There are some high performance goals I have set for myself for the end of the year that I’ve been working on for the last three months.

The goals aren’t working.

And while the goals are “activity goals” and not “results” goals, they still seem tough to do and out of reach. Of course, that can be pretty discouraging.

Then I discovered this gem of an article from Michael Shopshire and the Winning Mental Edge called “Persistence: Is It Always Good?” Buried in the article on stock market trading was a neat concept called “learning goals.”

Michael’s contention is that when we are learning something new, we set unrealistic and unattainable goals:

Many novices make the mistake of setting their goals too high. It’s understandable in a way. Ambitious people are taught to set high performance goals. If one doesn’t even consider achieving an ambitious goal, then one may not even try to achieve it. It is vital to set high standards and do whatever it takes to reach them. But goals should be set realistically.

When novices set high goals that exceed their skills, they usually fail, feel discouraged, and give up…

So if you’re a novice or a struggling trader, set yourself up to win. Don’t set overly high performance goals. Set realistic learning goals instead. Break the larger goal down into specific steps, and reward yourself after you complete each one. Focus on skill building rather than performance.

In our jobs, if we have already developed the competencies for our work, we can set higher performance goals because we already have the job skills to do the work. But learning a new skill means you don’t already have the competency in place to get the performance we need. (This is my situation with what I am working towards). And then it looks like we fail.

Breaking the larger goal down into specific steps to learn the job skill becomes the learning goals we can achieve to get to the right performance.

Time for me to shift over to some learning goals for my work. Have any of you set learning goals before?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.