Can’t get what you want? Here’s what to do

By August 5, 2013Blog

“Win lose, not matter, you make good fight, earn respect.” — Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid (Pt. 1 – 51:15)

Here’s the truth: sometimes you just don’t know what to do next. This results in you not getting what you want. So you’re stuck? Think about setting a mastery goal.

When you can’t produce something and it bothers you, remember that we live in a society that has been shaped by the industrial revolution. This results in people who think they constantly need to be doing or producing something.

In today’s corporate culture, outcome based goals that produce tangible results will get you a high five. There are also performance goals that are good to set as well. Performance goals have to do, not with what you want to produce, but how you want to be. Do you want to be a good listener, informative, humble? Those are performance goals. But there’s a third type of goal – a mastery goal. My colleague Dr. Jonathan Aronoff, Ph.D, CPEC, introduced me to the concept of a Mastery Goal about a year ago.

As you may have experienced, too often folks tie their value and self-worth to what they produce or accomplish. This is why, when they don’t achieve the desired outcome, they are paralyzed and conclude they are a failure. This can result in a lot of anxiety and wasted mental energy.

However, another group of people exist who are motivated not by outcomes, but by progress. Their motivation is in trying to master a skill vs. trying to prove or produce something.

Here’s an example.

I saw a cartoon movie called Meet the Robinsons this weekend with my kids. It’s about a kid who thinks he’s a failure because his inventions always fail. However, through a bizarre twist of events, one of his inventions lands him in the future. There, he discovers that failure is what is celebrated, not success. When he asks why this is, he is told that failure shows that you tried something new and it’s in the trying that we learn.

I heard that and thought – wow! That’s a mastery goal!

While some folks think they are a failure because they can’t produce desired results, others think failure shows them they haven’t yet mastered what they are trying to accomplish. As Dr. Aronoff says, these people “attribute poor performance to not having yet learned or mastered certain skills and are likely to seek out more experienced people and to learn from them. When the going gets tough, they are less likely to give up.”

So you don’t know what to do next? Well, what are you trying to master? Are you trying to be a better leader? Maybe you are attempting something that’s never been tried in your organization, what are you trying to master? Sure, it’s OK to aim at producing something, but don’t make that the goal. Make it your goal to master the skill you will need to get you where you want to go.

In closing, think on the wisdom of Mr. Miyagi – “Win lose, not matter, you make good fight, earn respect.” See, even Miyagi knows about mastery goals!