Focus on Getting Better Instead of Getting Good

You might sometimes find yourself reminiscing about the past — things you have done in your career, your performances at school, or a sporting event. Chances are that you thought that if you knew then what you know now, you would have done so much better.

Focus on getting better instead of getting good

When people look back on their past performances, they’re often distracted by the results. They are focusing on success rather than improvement. People should give themselves more credit for how they reframe mistakes or manage their emotions after setbacks — or even embracing that poor performance sometimes happens. Look at past events with a focus on the process rather than on the outcomes.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, refers to this as “process praise.” This is where you give others (teammates, fellow students, children) positive recognition for the preparation, perseverance, and improvement they made. Dweck’s work shows that utilizing this skill builds the foundation of a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.

The science behind process praise involves process reflection, in which, regardless of the result, you shift focus from winning to getting better. Everyone can develop their own method of reflecting on a process. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • How did I prepare mentally, and what was my intention? What did I do well in the process?
  • How did I envision myself making my intention a reality? How could I have done this differently?
  • What did I do well to create a state of optimal performance?
  • What could I have done differently with things like mindset, nutrition, and recovery to better support myself on my next attempt? And what would this look like?

You can’t always win — in sports, business, or your personal life. Not every negotiation will go your way, not every sales pitch will be a winner, and not every performance review will be pleasant. But you can keep moving forward and improve with good process reflection, which makes you more skilled and better prepared for the future.

Review your progress for getting better

You should conduct a review every time you set new goals. If you set annual goals for yourself, do a review at the end of the year. If you work with quarterly goals, be prepared to do a review several times a year. These are self-assessments in which you look back on the period since your last review.

By doing regular reviews, you get a continuous flow of adjustments and improvements to enhance your chances of success. Goals are about personal growth and development, and review is crucial. When you review, think about the following things:

  • Where were you in your life when you last set goals for yourself?
  • What were your successes, and what helped you succeed?
  • Did you celebrate your successes?
  • Where did you fall short or fail? Why was this the case?
  • What have you learned from your journey? What have you learned about yourself?

This process gives you clarity on your personal strengths, and how to better leverage them for future goals. It helps you get honest about your personal weaknesses. Knowing your weaknesses can help you plan around them when setting new goals.

By doing this review on the past, you will be more prepared to set your next goals. You’ll be more confident and have more control over the journey ahead. Your review is a self-assessment on the time since your last goal-setting moment, whether this is the past quarter, six months, or year.

Regular review

With the insights from your most recent success, you can set new goals for yourself. Once you have set your new goals, it’s important to review and re-evaluate them. When you are reviewing goals, it’s important to check your progress and determine if goals are still relevant. And it is important to stay consistent in this rhythm of goal-setting and evaluating.

While some goals can be achieved relatively easily, others take time. The frequency with which goals should be reviewed is dependent on the goals themselves. You’ll get the best outcomes when review and evaluation happen regularly and consistently.

For example, if you’ve set a challenging goal for yourself, you probably added some milestones — or objectives — for yourself on the route toward your goal. You’re wise to review your progress on a regular basis. Being aware of your progress allows for the opportunity to alter your actions if needed.

Perhaps things are not going completely as planned, reviewing regularly allows you to reflect on what isn’t going as well as you have hoped. Is the goal more challenging than you thought? What intermediate actions can you take to improve progress?

By doing regular reviews, you ensure that your goals stay relevant. Is this goal still what you want to achieve? If you don’t monitor your progress, you can lose sight of your ultimate goal — which leads to frustration, disappointment, and less motivation than when you started your journey.

Some goals, like learning a new language, can take months or even years to complete. When working toward long-term goals, it’s a good idea to break them up into more manageable bits (objectives) that can be periodically reviewed in the short term.

This article is an excerpt from my book. Interested in reading more?

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