Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Are You Trying to Be Good or Are You Trying to Get Better?

My daughter stinks at miniature golf.  She can't hit the golf ball in a straight line to save her life.  And forget about all of those obstacles.  When we played last summer, she was 30 strokes OVER par.  And she didn't like it!

Here's the thing.  She's only 9!  Of course, she's bad at miniature golf.  She's bad at lots of stuff because she hasn't had any time to practice.
"Honey, you've only played miniature golf twice in your life,"  I remind her.  "Don't be so hard on yourself.  It take time to master a new skill."
When it comes to kids, it's easy for most of us to remember that practice makes perfect and that there are very few tasks that we can nail out-of-the-gate.   

Why is it so hard to apply the same logic to ourselves as adults?

I'm amazed at how hard we are on ourselves.  For some reason we expect to be good at everything we try - right away!  No matter that we've never taken a single class in fundraising, marketing, financial accounting, product management, sales, or social media.  For some reason, we expect all new skills to come quickly and easily.  It's a shame.

According to 9 Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson, 
"When many of us take on a new project or goal, we expect to be able to somehow do the work flawlessly, no matter how challenging it might be.  Our focus is on being good, and the (very real) prospect of failing to meet expectations becomes terrifying.  The irony is that the pressure to be-good results in many more mistakes, and far inferior performance, than would a focus on getting-better."
This focus on being good vs. getting better has another adverse result.  It makes us reluctant to TRY new activities and take risks.  In other words, if we have to do everything well, we won't innovate.  This lack of out-of-the-box thinking is bad for us personally and professionally.

Join me in taking Halvorson's advice to heart and applying it to your work and play.  Instead of focusing on being good, focus on improving your skills over time.

By applying this wisdom, you're likely to get better.  You're also more likely to enjoy the ride!



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