The book Thinking In Systems talks about performance erosion that happens because of relative goals.
Say you set a goal to lose 10 pounds. But then you have a rough couple months and gain 10 pounds. Now you try to reset by setting another goal to lose 10 pounds. If you succeed, that would put you back where you started.
That’s the drift to low performance. Our goals erode over time because they’re set relative to our worst performance rather than our best. If weight loss doesn’t vibe with you, think about whatever target you’re dealing with at work. Maybe it’s revenue targets or performance metrics or customer satisfaction or accessibility guidelines?
The book suggests two solutions:
- Set absolute goals instead of relative goals. “Weigh less than 200 pounds” instead of “lose 10 pounds.”
- If you’re going to set relative goals, make them relative to your best rather than present day. “Weigh 10 pounds less than I did before I gained my pandemic weight” instead of “weigh 10 pounds less than I do right now.”