The best way to achieve your goals is to know the different types of goals you can set and work towards. It’s not enough to just “have goals.”
Here, I describe the difference between self-improvement (mastery) goals versus performance goals. Luckily, it’s more interesting and easier than it sounds. This research describes different types of goals – and how your goals affect your relationships at work and home.
“People with performance goals are more deceitful,” says P. Marijn Poortvliet, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands. They’re less likely to share information with coworkers, both in the laboratory and in real-world offices he has studied. “The reason is fairly obvious – when you want to outperform others, it doesn’t make sense to be honest about information.”
To achieve your personal and professional goals, you’d do well to learn the difference between self-improvement goals and performance goals. Each type of goal affects your relationships differently – both at home and at work – which in turn affects whether you’ll achieve your goals! To learn more about goal setting and achievement, read Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want – Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible.
And, here’s a summary of a research study on how to achieve your goals, including a definition of self-improvement or mastery goals versus performance goals…
Different Types of Goals – Self-Improvement Vs. Performance Goals
How you think about your goals – whether you want to improve yourself or to do better than your coworkers or neighbors – can affect whether you reach those goals. Different kinds of goals can also have distinct effects on your relationships at home and work, according to the authors of a paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.
People with “mastery goals” (self-improvement goals) want to improve themselves. Maybe they want to get better grades, make more sales, or land that triple toe loop. On the other hand, people with what psychologists call “performance goals” are trying to outperform others – to get a better grade than a friend or be Employee of the Year. Both types of goals can be useful in different contexts, and both types of goals apply to our personal and professional lives.
P. Marijn Poortvliet, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands and Céline Darnon, of France’s Clermont University are interested in the social context of these goals, or what they do to your relationships. And, knowing how to achieve your goals successfully involves knowing how your goals affect your professional and personal relationships (because the better your relationships are, the more likely you’ll achieve your goals at work and at home).
How Different Goals Affect Your Relationships
Poortvliet’s work focuses on information exchange: whether people are open and honest when they are working together. “People with performance goals are more deceitful” and less likely to share information with coworkers, both in the laboratory and in real-world offices he has studied, Poortvliet says. “The reason is fairly obvious — when you want to outperform others, it doesn’t make sense to be honest about information.”
On the other hand, people who are trying to improve themselves are quite open, he says. “If the ultimate goal is to improve yourself (self-improvement goals), one way to do it is to be very cooperative with other people.” This can help improve the work environment, even though the people with these goals aren’t necessarily thinking about social relations. “They’re not really altruists, per se. They see the social exchange as a means toward the ends of self improvement.”
Other research has found that people with these self-improvement goals are more open to hearing different perspectives, while people with a performance goal “would rather just say, ‘I’m just right and you are wrong.’”
It’s not always bad to be competitive, Poortvliet says. “For example, if you want to be the Olympic champion, of course it’s nice to have mastery goals and you should probably have mastery goals, but you definitely need performance goals because you want to be the winner and not the runner-up.”
Do your goals involve money – and you don’t care what type of goals you’re setting? Read my most popular money articles.
How Your Relationships Affect Your Goals
It’s important to think about how achieving your goals affects your relationships. “If you really want to establish constructive and long-lasting working relationships, then you should really balance the different levels of goals,” Poortvliet says – which means thinking not only about each person’s achievement, but also about the team as a whole.
Some people are naturally more competitive than others. But it’s also possible for managers to shift the kinds of goals people have by, for example, giving a bonus for the best employee. That might encourage people to set performance goals and compete against each other. On the other hand, it would also be possible to structure a bonus program to give people rewards based on their individual improvement over time.
If you have strong, healthy, proactive relationships, you’re more likely to achieve your goals because you have social and practical support. If you really want to achieve your goals, enlist the help of your family, friends, and coworkers — and focus on self-improvement goals as well as performance goals.
If you need help achieving your goals, read How to Convince People to Say Yes – 5 Persuasion Techniques.
What goal do you most want to achieve in life? The more you think and talk about it, the more you’ll act in ways that will make it happen…
The above story is adapted from materials provided by Association for Psychological Science.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.