Much psychological research has shown that there is an important difference between so-called performance goals and mastery goals. Performance goals are about being able to demonstrate a certain skill or ability; mastery goals are about attaining progress and growth with respect to a certain skill. Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson explains how the performance orientation, while very motivating has an important disadvantage:


“Performance goals are very motivating. […] Students with performance goals often get the highest course grades; employees with strong performance goals often are the most productive. […] But performance goals have a double-edged-sword-quality – those ties to self-worth that make them so motivating are also what makes them less adaptive when the going gets tougher.” (Source).


In an interview I did with her, she explained how the mastery orientation has many important benefits over the performance orientation:


“Studies show that kids who see their goals in terms of getting better […] find classroom material more fun and interesting, and process it more deeply. They are less prone to anxiety and depression than their be-good peers. They are more motivated, persist longer when the going gets tough, and are much more likely to improve over time.” (Source)

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