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Are you mastering life?

My friend and colleague Alex and me had a really deep conversation with actor and coach Daniel Fathers (name drop!) last week for our podcast. Amongst all the things we discussed one thing stood out for me.


Performance versus mastery.


As an ex-teacher, these terms are not new to me. Mastery goals were introduced into mark schemes for GCSE, if my memory serves me correctly, around 2013/14. It was to encourage students to focus on the skills they were learning and not just retaining information for the test (ha!). It's a whole other blog about how this doesn't quite work in practice so I'll stop right here and save you the rant.


It got me thinking about life and how coaching could help you start to master life, not be driven by performance. Let me explain...


Goal orientation theory came about in the 70's and has been through a few iterations since through the likes of Carol Dweck and John Nicholls (no relation!) in the 80's. It was brought about to explain the relationship between goals (e.g. getting good grades) and student motivation.


Performance related goals are when you're focused on the outcome. You're working towards something purely for the sake of that "good grade", the "top job", how it will look to someone else, a hoop to jump through perhaps. It's ego driven, full of comparison and competition. Makes you think doesn't it, lately when have you taken a step back to assess your own life goals, even just the "small stuff"? Are you working on something for the benefit of how it looks to others? Is it really your dream?

"Personal development" seem to be the "buzz" words at the moment don't they? I mean if you're not "working on yourself" what are you doing with your life?! It's pretty fashionable to be demonstrating a personal transformation you're going through these days, no? I don't mean that to sound as sarcastic or flippant as it might and I challenge this from a place of love and empathy.

- Are you buying those books because everyone else is?

- Are you reading them because everyone else is?

- Are you even reading them?!

- Are you in that Insta coach's challenge because everyone else is?

- Are you actually considering what's right for you, right now?


If you're "self-developing" because it's cool, because you want to show you're working on yourself I challenge you to go deeper. Step away from the ego driven, performance related goal. Learning enough to "pass the test" doesn't set you up for life. It's sticking plaster stuff that doesn't really stick. It's also super stressful! Trying to keep up with others' expectations (which probably aren't real anyway), the constant comparison, peer pressure and that internal panic that you're never quite good enough, that something is still "missing". No wonder so many of us feel a bit lost...


Aim for mastery instead.


Mastery related goals are completely focused on just that; mastering the skills you need to relish the journey. It's when you're loving the learning, enjoying the processes and most of all embracing failure to help determine how you learn and move on that creates fulfilment. By creating a mastery goal you get to define what success looks like. It's not a hoop to jump through or a test to pass. You create resilience, confidence and a dedication to your craft which all feeds into this intrinsic motivation to keep learning. You take more risks because you know no matter what happens, you're learning. You're comparing you with you. The pressure is off because you're in control and any mistakes you make are just proof you're trying.


Cue geek mode: I adapted the TARGET model (Meece, Anderman and Anderman, 2006 pg 493) for you to understand how you can create more mastery oriented goals for life to help minimise the need for performance related ones.



These are neither unique or going to set the world alight but I truly hope they get you thinking. A common myth around coaching is that it's just about someone supporting you to achieve a goal that bit quicker than if you were to tackle it alone. To a certain extent that's true. However, those who take on coaching for a longer period of time, commit to really getting into the "nitty-gritty" of many aspects of their life start to master it. They do so not because they need it, but because they want to. They relish the journey, embrace the learning and become directors of their lives.


To coin and tweak the phrase "self care isn't selfish, it's a necessity", consider coaching as another tool in your self care tool kit. In these rather stressful times (which is subjective I know) it's so much more difficult to process what's going on and think and act in considered and empathetic ways. Having a safe, confidential space to open up and have someone really listen to you can help us process and gain perspective of anything/everything. So if you're wondering why coaching is so popular too, think of it as a guide to mastering your life. Ditch the performance goals and focus on creativity, resilience, learning, empathy, confidence, reflecting, and so much more. Get to know yourself again...


Coaching can help you with all of that and more.


To listen to the Special Guest episode of the podcast Coffee and Coaching (other hot drinks are available) with Alex, Jen and Daniel, click on the image below.







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