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Don't set goals based on specific 'outcomes'

5 things I wish I knew... Part 4


Hello again!


In my last post I spoke about two things. Firstly, the fact that fear is not a 'sign' that you should stop or retreat, and secondly, that fear is a feeling and feelings are not facts.

I had quite a few people reach out to me on this topic which kickstarted some really interesting conversation. So, if you have an opinion or have any questions about what I spoke about last time, feel free to hit that reply button.

What I want to talk about this week, is goal setting for success. Goal setting is one of those things that seems really simple and intuitive but what I learned when I started educating myself on performance psychology principles is that not all goals are made equal. Let me ask you this. Have you ever set a goal like the following?:

  • I want to win the lead role

  • I want to get into that young artist program

  • I want to win 1st place in that competition

If you're anything like… well, basically any creative I have ever spoken to, you wouldn't be alone if you have set a goal similar to those above. It makes sense to want to set goals like the ones above. Why? Because we want to achieve a specific outcome. But, there are a number of issues with goals like these that actually inadvertently hold us back. Any idea what the main one is?

They are not within our control

The goals I have outlined above are what we call ‘outcome’ goals. Outcome goals focus on the desired end result and whilst they can be motivational, they can actually be quite counter-productive if they are not paired with accompanying performance and process goals.

Performance goals focus on personal performance. So, rather than focusing on achieving a certain outcome, you would instead, aim to focus on ‘how’ you want to perform. For example, instead of setting the goal of ‘winning 1st place in the competition’, you might instead aim to ‘fully commit to the storytelling in your performance' or ‘perform with commitment and conviction’. When we focus on ‘how’ we want to perform, we are able to identify specifically what we need to do to achieve that result. This is where process goals comes in.

Process goals give us even greater control over achieving our goals and they enable us to take our performance goals to the next level. Process goals are the specific actions we take in order to achieve our performance goals. So, if our performance goal is to fully commit to our storytelling, we might choose to set a number of process goals such as:

  • Learning the text effectively

  • Understanding the playwright's/composers intentions with the text and music

  • Researching the background on the poetry/script

These things are all within your control and thus, are more achievable.

You may perform amazingly in an audition, but not get the part because there was someone else who better suited the vision the director had in mind for the role. If your goal in this instance was to win the audition (outcome goal), then, even though you performed exceptionally, you are likely to still to be disappointed. Had you walked out of that audition however, knowing that you had fully committed to the storytelling in your performance (performance goal), then your goal is already achieved. There may still be disappointment if you don't win, but at least in this instance, your goals are on your own terms and your success is dependent on your own metrics rather than someone else's.

Similarly, you may perform poorly but still win first place, if you fellow competitors are of a lower level than you. Performance goals invite you to focus on performing to ‘your’ best abilities, rather than setting goals that utilise a subjective measurement of good/bad.

“If you want to succeed in any area of your life, “concentrate on what will produce results rather than on the results, focus on the process, not the prize.” — Bill Walsh.

If you're interested in learning more about how to set effective goals, I'd love to hear from you.

Stay creative,

Cailin at The Performer's Edge :)

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