Learning vs. Performance


One day, you just wake up feeling drained, unable to make any progress to achieve better results, with productivity running very low. All attempts of pushing yourself to work hard end in vain and your expectations of great results just crack. You do not know what exactly happened, but you are sure something is wrong; you have been deprived of the flow you have been experiencing before, and are unable to get better at things you care most about even though you work hard on them.

You wonder why you cannot make any progress, and start blaming yourself for not working hard, but blaming yourself would lead you nowhere; it is time to stop and reflect on what you have been doing.

Some people tend to spend most of their time implementing skills they have learned, and performing to reach the best results possible. They believe that learning stops at the phase of getting into the work environment, in which a person should spend every second just performing and executing. However, learning is not a phase to complete; it is ongoing and should never end at any moment. Getting better results is about achieving balance between time spent in the learning zone and time spent in the performance zone.

Features of the Learning Zone

  • Expecting errors is a very normal part, because you are working on things that you have not mastered yet.
  • Focusing on improvement, and not to be always correct.
  • Trying out new strategies, and soliciting feedback and reflecting on it.
  • Identifying opportunities for improvement that should be applied to the performance zone.

To obtain the best result from this stage, you should have a growth mindset that allows you to seek improvement and never think of errors as catastrophic. Also, you should have a purpose to work on by learning, and a clear idea about how you want to improve.

In addition to that, the learning zone includes deliberate practice, which refers to that kind of purposeful practice that requires focused attention, and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. This is completely different from regular mindless practice that depends on repetition only.

Features of Performance Zone

  • Trying to do things as best as you can.
  • Concentrating on execution as you work on things you have already mastered.
  • Expecting to minimize errors.
  • Giving feedback about what needs improvement, and working on them while getting back to the learning zone.

Staying in the performance zone maximizes our immediate performance, and enables us to implement what we have already learned. It also gives us a sense of satisfaction about what we do; yet, spending too much time in it hinders progress and affects it. Here, the importance of the learning zone emerges to improve our growth and our future performance.

In short, if you want to obtain the best results ever, you should achieve a balance between the two zones. You should always keep in mind that there are times to learn to avoid errors, and other times to perform and execute, to make evident and material progress. It is spiral; when you seek to learn and when you seek to perform.

Watch this short TED Talk on
“How to get better at the things you care about” by Eduardo Briceño




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