Monday, May 7, 2018

What Type of Goals are the Most Effective: Performance Goals or Results Goals?

India’s athlete Neeraj Chopra recently came 4th at Javelin event at Diamond League. Diamond League is a world cup of sorts for athletics. He is a small-town athlete from India. India has never been known for its athletics prowess at the world stage. And this very fact makes Neeraj’s performance beyond commendable.

An ESPN author, Jonathan Selvaraj,  recently wrote an article on Neeraj which included some conversations both of them had. While most of the article rightly reflected the pride Neeraj felt at this moment of triumph but there was another part of their chat that caught my attention. And before I tell that part, let me explain something about the sport of Javelin.

As Wikipedia explains, Competition rules in Javelin throw are similar to other throwing events: a round consists of one attempt by each competitor in turn, and competitions typically consist of three to six rounds. The competitor with the longest single legal throw (over all rounds) is the winner.

At the Diamond League event, Neeraj threw 87.43m in the second round and his throws in all other rounds were either fouls or the distance less than this. A Javelin throw of 87.43m also happens to be a new national record for India, with Neeraj beating his own record by more than 1 cm.

Below excerpt from the article explains the gist of the conversation:
"I was hoping to do a personal best and so when I got it in just my second throw, a little part of me felt satisfied. That should not have happened," he says.However, with his focus suddenly shot, Neeraj fouled his next three attempts. "I was trying too hard. I was running in too hard and when that happened I lost my technique. I tried to control myself for my last attempt but when you start thinking about your throw it never comes the way you want."
The mention of “trying too hard”, “lost my technique”, “when you start thinking about your throw” made me tweet to Jonathan the following:
[Anuj] Interesting how mastering softer aspects is so important in a physical sport like Javelin. Neeraj's mention of his trying too hard and overthinking about the throw really tells how keeping things simple is one of the most complex things to master in sport, and in life.

[Jonathan’s response] It was interesting to me that once he achieved his personal best in his second throw,he wasn’t sure how to motivate himself in a competition. Very honest to admit that.

[Anuj] Got reminded of what @bhogleharsha 's book talks about goals. The difference between performance goals and results goals. More focus on result goals, adds pressure. Wonderful to hear about him being honest to admit. Future looks compelling.

In their book, The Winning Way: Learnings from Sport for
Managers, Anita and Harsha Bhogle emphasize the difference between performance goals and result goals. As they say, winning a gold in Olympics is a dream, but you cannot really control how others are going to perform. A swimmer, for example, rather than swimming for gold (results goal) swims for timing (performance goal), which is in his control.
Small, precise, performance-related goals can produce extraordinary results.

Both performance goals and result goals are important. Without result goals, end objective is not clear. Without performance goals, the end may become more important than the means and it may become more difficult to replicate success.
In Neeraj’s case, apparently, more focus on results goal seem to have add that extra bit of pressure  that didn’t let him reach the peak performance after he had achieved world record in the earlier rounds.
At work, what works more for you- performance goals or results goals ?
Do leave your insights in the comments.
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