That tournament coming up—you really want gold.
Walking up when your name is called.
Bowing your head to receive that gold medal around your neck.
Standing on the podium after, drenched in sweat and grinning from ear to ear.
The applause! The photos! The “humble” posts you’ll make on social media after!
It’ll feel SO amazing… unless you lose.
So here’s the problem. Performance goals—goals that are associated with some external validation—have inherent limitations. Whether you achieve that goal is ultimately beyond your control. You can’t control the conditions at the tournament. You can’t control feeling like crap that day. You can’t control all the variables, so you can’t control the outcome.
Performance goals like these can definitely motivate you to train really hard and achieve your best, but NOT achieving these goals can be incredibly demotivating, and ultimately stall your progress.
The crushing disappointment when you lose. The fog of self-pity that suffocates you over the next few days… or longer.
Not getting that gold medal you worked so hard for? That sucks!
Okay, so how about this? Instead of setting a performance goal for your next tournament, set mastery goals.
With mastery goals, you are striving for mastery in a certain technique or skill. Instead of being about external validation or an extrinsic reward, like a gold medal, mastery goals are intrinsically rewarding. You get satisfaction from becoming excellent at something, and from the joy of going through that process.
If you’re just focused on performance goals—getting that gold medal—your joy will hinge on whether or not you achieve that goal. But if you focus on mastery goals—improving your sparring technique for instance—your joy isn’t limited to the outcome. Instead that whole journey will be gratifying.
And this strategy almost always results in better performance over the long haul.
So does this mean you need to scrap that performance goal entirely? No. It doesn’t. Write down that goal: You want to get a gold medal in sparring at the next tournament. But don’t just leave it at that. Instead, write down all of the skills you need to develop in order to achieve that goal. What skills do you need to work on to win a sparring division? What techniques could use improvement? Figure those out, and then break those down into the actions and behaviors that you need to incorporate in your training in order to achieve that desired result.
And then set that performance goal aside, and focus on what needs to be done right now.
The great thing about mastery goals, if you don’t get gold at your upcoming tournament, it won’t really matter. Because you’re striving for something far more gratifying.
What are some mastery goals you could work toward for your upcoming tournaments? Feel free to share in the Comments section below!
Check out some of my articles on performance and competition:
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