Good boy! vs Bad boy!

I was on the train recently and overhead a mother reading her sons’s end of term report.

– “French language 100%. Good boy!

– French writing 92%. Good boy!

– French comprehension 78%. Bad boy. You can do much better than that.”

Was it really the boy that was bad, or the performance (and was even that ‘bad’)?

By coincidence, I was reading The Inner Game of Tennis at the time, in which Gallwey talks about this conflation of self with extrinsic goals “…the kind of things needed to be done well to deserve love varies from family to family, but the underlying equation between self-worth and performance has been nearly universal. Now, that’s a pretty heavy equation.”

So what would be a less heavy, more useful equation? Gallwey says that performance is our potential minus interference. We can actualise potential (eg by recognising and nurturing strengths) and reduce obstacles (cultural, technical, communications etc).

p = P – i

But to me there’s an even simpler one…that increases in happiness lead to increased performance.

h p

Time and again studies have shown that happiness leads to increased success in nearly every life domain, and yet organisations often believe its the other way round – that the better we perform, the happier we will be.

And sustained increases in happiness – after basic needs are met – are about intrinsic self worth – not material acquisitions, targets or validation from others.

So as we go into a new financial year and set objectives with our staff, how about considering goals that follow these rules:

  1. non-zero goals which encompass welfare of others
  2. goals that increase autonomy, competence or relatedness
  3. intrinsic goals – e.g. deeper relationships (not extrinsic – ie stuff)

And remembering that the performance is not the person.

Image: Ot Pi

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