Nothing is more motivating than the dream-fueled desire to become better– or even to be the best at something you’re passionate about. When I was first introduced to parkour, I was ecstatic. I saw videos and read articles of people moving so fluidly through urban landscapes in all directions. They were jumping, climbing, crawling, and moving around in ways I had never seen people interact with a public environment. In short, my mind was blown, and the practitioners I had been learning about were doing what I thought was impossible and moving through an environment in a way that was so different and graceful, I like taking part in such a practice would be to challenge the very structure of human existence– breaking the rules of how to move. Why just stick to the sidewalks when I could climb around and master moving through my city? It was something I was instantly drawn to.
When I began training early in 2009, parkour was beginning to see attention from mainstream media. It was being featured in music videos, films, and even the first free running competition by Red Bull. Getting involved in this became my very first passion. I was determined to become a flagship practitioner of the discipline and learn as much as possible about the human capacity for movement so that I could implement it into my life. This goal to learn and attain a great level of competence is what performance scientists refer to as a mastery goal.
Attaining mastery with the big picture
A mastery goal is all about striving to master a task. Mastery goals are more of a big picture way of setting goals, compared to performance goals. Performance goals are more detailed in their outcomes, usually being specific to what a performer wants to accomplish. Because a mastery goal is less specific, it’s less likely that the goal will ever be attained, thus elongating the length of effort put toward the goal. Mastery goals have been shown to provide maximum levels of motivation in performers, for the performer will be motivated to constantly try their best in order to become more skilled at their task.
Maintaining the effort even when short-term goals are finished.
Studies have also shown that those who use mastery goals tend to reach higher levels of achievement compared to that of performance goal setters. This is probably because the performance goal-setter will stop their efforts once the performance goal is achieved. The performance goal may act as a limitation, or glass ceiling for the performer, whereas the only perceived limitations for the mastery goal setter may be limitations due to the task.
Competence is important for maintaining steady habits, so for skill acquisition and behavior change, it is probably best to gain greater competence in the task, and spend more time being motivated to it. Therefore, when goal setting we must start with a mastery goal so that we can become and stay motivated until habits are formed.