Opinion business psychology

The Goals Versus The Process (Week 20 of Wisdom)

A competitor needs to be process-oriented, always looking for stronger opponents to spur growth, but it is also important to keep winning enough to maintain confidence. We have to release our current ideas to soak in new material, but not so much that we lose touch with our unique natural talents. Vibrant, creative idealism needs to be tempered by a practical, technical awareness.” – The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin

There are two types of philosophies related to optimizing your performance (this includes learning, skill development, and creative work).

One philosophy says that you should be goal-oriented, while the other says that you should be system-oriented. But the better answer is both.

If you are only goal-oriented, then you are too much affected by setbacks and defeats. If a win inflates your ego, a loss will deflate it. When you are too centered on results, then a string of bad results can push you off track.

The logic of a system-oriented approach is that you are insulated from the shock of defeat. But the problem here is a lack of focus. If you are not paying attention to short-term goals that are measurable and achievable, then you will fail to make real progress.

The combination of both approaches is necessary.

You need to keep on eye on a long-term goal, that is somewhat arbitrary, and allows for a large margin of error. Yet this goal must be narrow enough to be meaningful. “Develop a deep understanding of human psychology” is an example of a such a goal.

Something too narrow would be “Develop a deep understanding of the sublimation concept in psychology.” This can be achievable quickly, so it is not useful as a long-term goal – whereas “Develop a deep understanding” is too arbitrary, and not meaningful.

Once you have defined a long-term goal, then you can build a process or system that helps you accomplish it. You may choose to devote 20 hours a month to developing your guitar skills or commit to 3 days a week in the gym or reading 100 pages a day.

Once you have defined a system that is congruent with your long-term goals, you can now shift your attention to short term goals. This is when you need to focus on the technical details, and where short-term feedback is necessary. In the gym, this may be a specific number for your one-rep max deadlift.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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