Sunday, January 21, 2007

Path to a Destination

More and more often these days, you hear people say that they are concerned about the journey, not the destination. Funny, we all have the same destination…death. It should be obvious that the journey is the important focus in our lives, but as the world gets faster and more demanding, most of us lose focus and become destination driven. Our focus is driven by our goal orientation; we either have an outcome goal orientation (external) or process goal orientation (internal).

Outcome goals are defined as “goals that represent standards of performance that focus on the result”. This is what we deal with on a daily basis in our professional lives: get results, get recognition, get rewarded. It is no wonder that we have passed this on to our children, who walk into the work force expecting rewards and recognition for even the smallest of results. This is also why we have more corruption, cheating, and backstabbing in the workforce. Look at politicians, large corporations, and even major sports teams who consistently lie, cheat, and steal to achieve their envisioned outcome. They do not see anything but the finish line and will run over all who are in their way, feeling no enjoyment for anything other than their expected outcome.

Relying on an outcome goal orientation doesn’t mean that you are predisposed to being crooked; it just means that you are missing out on everything that makes up your success. Tunnel vision towards the end result leaves you only with the end result. There is no room for evaluating your actions and reactions, because you were either successful or you weren’t. In other words, you cannot grow because you don’t have the vision to see where you can make more efficient and productive decisions.

Process goals are defined as “goals that are focused on improvements relative to one’s own past performance”. These are goals that are introspective; they focus on the journey. You must first know something about yourself in order to use performance goals effectively. These are the goals that allow us to take success and make it more efficient. These are also the goals that allow us to take a failure and learn from it, so we are less likely to make the same mistakes we have already made.

Relying solely on performance goals does not make you an enlightened human. It is not realistic in this society to eliminate competition and so, by competing against yourself alone, you fail to prepare for the world and can become a more timid and less confident person. In focusing primarily on performance goals, you set yourself up to choose only the tasks in which you will be successful because you fear failure, or the idea of competition intimidates you.

The general idea is to have a balance between outcome and process goals. This is not a 50/50 balance because we spend much more time working towards goals then we do accomplishing them. The balance is loaded heavily on the process side, as this is where our focus consistently needs to be in order to be aware of the journey. So as we all near closer to our final destination, figure out your balance before the journey passes you by.

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