My sister doesn’t set New Year’s goals. Instead, she sets a theme for her year. The past couple of years, I’ve followed her example and this year I decided to set the theme, “Getting Better.”

Why getting better?

I recently ran a workshop where I presented on goal setting approaches derived from behavioral research by Heidi Grant Halvorson and Carol Dweck. They identified a dichotomy of mindsets when it came to pursuing goals. People tend to think about their goals in terms of “being good” or “getting better”.

When we think about “being good” it’s achieving a goal that means something beyond the pursuit of the goal. Some examples:

  • Pursuing an “A” in school to prove that you’re smart.
  • Aiming to buy a nice car to show that you’re successful.
  • Striving for a seven or eight figure business to establish that “you’ve made it.”

When we think in terms of “getting better,” we focus on the value of the activities themselves:

  • Trying to improve your understanding of a subject in school.
  • Managing your finances so that they better align with your values and purpose.
  • Striving for a seven or eight figure business as an objective measure of the value you’re creating for yourself and the market.

For these two kinds of thinking, Halvorson and Dweck found that the “being good” thinking is more impactful when the goal is easy and a reward is involved. But it also is more likely to lead to quitting and lower results once things get more difficult. The “getting better” approach is superior for dealing with uncertainty, obstacles, and complex situations.

Uncertainty, obstacles, and complex situations are what entrepreneurship is all about. Which is why I chose this theme for the year to frame my objectives and perspectives.

Halvorson and Dweck named “being good” as a “Performance” orientation. They named “getting better” as a “Mastery” orientation.

In your business are you pursuing performance or mastery?