Photo credit: maclauren70, Creative Commons/Flickr

At first, it’s hard to distinguish between the two (at least it is for me). Yet I recently came across this article on 99u on the difference between getting better and being good:

Let’s try a quick self-assessment:

Do you feel hesitant to learn new skills, especially with others?
Do you feel uncomfortable working on new types of projects or with new clients?
Do you only apply for jobs when you are 100% confident that you can already handle all of the responsibilities?
Do you avoid going to places where you don’t know most people?
Do you dread showing others your work in progress?

If you answered, “Yes,” to any of these questions, you may be limiting your creative potential by focusing on “be-good” goals versus “get-better” goals.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD, explains this concept (and backs it up with lots of research studies) in her excellent e-book “9 Things Successful People Do Differently,” and I wanted to share with you how this small mental shift could produce massive creative gains.

To start, let’s define the two types of goals:

Be-good Goals: Put the emphasis on proving you have ability and showing you know how to do something.
Get-better Goals: Put the emphasis on developing ability and learning to master a new skill.

I have often assumed that by wanting to be good at my work, I was getting better at my work. Yet the distinction is resonating with me because it forces me to be deliberate in my desire to get better and take action. My be-good goals often focus on project or task completion, and I usually see that as a sign that I am moving forward in my work. However, in crafting my get-better goals, I can focus on long-term development and growth, perhaps adding a new perspective on the work I am completing.

At first, get-better goals also sound a lot like a plan for professional development: setting aside time and resources to focus on a developing a skill. But what I love about this framework, is that the goals don’t need to be big to-dos in order for me to push myself. For example, at work, instead of only taking on projects I know I will excel at, I can work with a different team on something new. I can get into the habit of sharing incomplete assignments and soliciting feedback that might help me take my work in new directions. There are small (but still deliberate) steps I can take in order to get better.

What do you think? Have you separated your be-good goals and get-better goals?