158. Ego versus task goals

By: Michael Beiter

An ego goal orientation focuses on comparing performances with and defeating others, whereas a task goal orientation focuses on comparing performance with personal standards and personal improvement.
It is best to adopt a task orientation, which emphasizes comparisons with your own performance standards rather than with the performance of others, especially if you are learning a set of important physical activity skills.
I help people determine when it is appropriate to compete and when it is appropriate to focus on individual improvement.

Competing is sometimes a necessity in society. Examples are to make an athletic team or gain admission to selective colleges.
At times, competing with others can be counterproductive. You wouldn't encourage a cardiac rehab patient to run outside of the right zones to become the best fastest runner in his group or a mother of two to focus on being the strongest lifter in town rather than just strong enough to parent.
The key then becomes to develop judgement. 
Society emphasizes social evaluation in competitive outcomes so much that often we must counterbalance by stressing a task rather than an outcome orientation.
Talking to someone once or twice about this issue is not enough.
Consistent, repeated efforts are necessary to promote good judgement about appropriate competition.
- Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7th ed

Ego versus task goals get brought up a lot. What I have found is that once people forgive their competitive breeding, which causes them to constantly compare themselves to to others, they become much more enthusiastic about working out. This is because they can work out for the pleasure it brings rather than as a form of punishment or as a means to an ever increasing competitive standard. 

Competition is not bad. But a lot of us are competing with the wrong people. We compare ourselves to others rather than ourselves. In the formal wording this means switching from an ego goal to a task goal.  

All of this has become so much harder due to the constant use of social media. It inflates expectations and leads us to think we aren't any good and never will be. Looking at the highly cultivated highlight reel of other people's lives is not a good way to appreciate what you have in yours. 

We need task goal orientation in work, fitness, and life in general. 

The best practice I have come across uses tasks as monthly goals to improve personal health and fitness metrics like body composition, activity, heart rate, etc. 

The tasks are sleeping a certain number of hours, logging food and balancing macros, walking, stretching, and lifting weights. 

The monthly goals for each are: 

210+ hour of sleep 
30 completed and balanced food logs
300,000 steps
12 - 16 hours of stretching
12 - 16 hours of weight lifting


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