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Tasks vs Ego


"It is empowering to take responsibility for those things that we can do something about," so says coach and sports psychologist Dr. Craig Manning in his book The Fearless Mind (2017).


"There are so many variables in this life that we can't control; it only seems logical to put all our resources into mastering those aspects of our lives that we can control" (p. 7). And yet, how much time and mental energy do we put into things we can't control?


As a former tennis pro and coach Manning compares life to tennis, "We need to channel our energy into mastering those variables that lie on our side of the net – those variables that are within our direct control; hence we should hold ourselves accountable for them" (p. 86). As you set your goals for this year, are you taking responsibility for what is on your "side of the net," or are you blaming others, COVID, the weather, the politicians, the economy, or anything outside of your control for what you can or cannot do this year?


There is already an epidemic of anxiety in the world today. Focusing on things outside of our control increases that anxiety. Manning points out, "Directing our mental energy toward objectives that we don't have direct control over greatly increases the level of anxiety and creates feelings of learned helplessness" (p. 13). For example, I can control that I will help my child through a bedtime routine each night. I cannot control if my child will go to bed willingly and fall asleep quickly. If I depend on my child's attitude and physical state to determine if I feel like a good parent that night, my anxiety and disappointment will skyrocket because I don't control my child. I can only control my actions around my child.


Manning talks about task-oriented vs. ego-oriented actions. Task orientation refers to "performance-oriented objectives [and] behaviors or actions that are directly related to the task at hand and not the individual" (p. 39). For example, I will help my child brush his teeth, read a story, pray with him, and tuck him in. Those are all behaviors related to the task. In contrast, ego-oriented behavior is "outcome orientation" in which the focus is on the result (p. 39-40). For example, an outcome-oriented goal would be "my child has to be asleep by 8 pm." Task-oriented individuals have lower anxiety because they are focused on what they control. "Task-oriented individuals seem to stay very focused on the present" (p. 40).


Is your goal a task-oriented goal or an ego-oriented goal? Sometimes it seems like a fine line. I will lose 10 pounds by March 15 is a "SMART" goal. However, you don't truly control when you will lose 10 lbs. You have control over keeping a food log, weighing yourself, drinking water, etc. Those task-oriented goals will eventually get you to your goal without your ego being wrapped up in the thought that you must lose 10 pounds by March 15 and basing how you feel on the outcome.


Being task-oriented requires us to focus on the present moment. It requires the deliberate practice of a skill we are performing right now. "The attentional demand required to execute deliberate practice is very much in the present. When individuals discipline their minds to attend to the present, feelings of control are enhanced" (p. 46). Who doesn't want to feel more control?

When we feel out of control, we experience anxiety, fear, helplessness, and even despair. Yet we always have the power to focus on what is in our control. "When individuals feel they have more control over their current situations, they generate feelings of self-empowerment, develop greater confidence, and enhance enjoyment" (p. 46). Empowerment, Confidence, Enjoyment. I know I want to feel those as often as possible.


As you are setting your goals for this year, remember to

  1. Take responsibility for the thing you have control over and nothing else

  2. Make task-oriented rather than ego-oriented goals

  3. Practice in the present

As you do so, your sense of control will increase, your anxiety will decrease, and you will feel empowered.


Dr. Manning explains, "Setting task-oriented objectives provides a mental framework where we are held accountable for what we have control over….When we are accountable for our own lives, growth is inevitable. It is just a matter of time before our objectives are achieved" (emphasis added, p. 52).


If you want your growth to be inevitable, I want to be your accountability coach.


The accountability coaching package includes:

  • A monthly one-on-one coaching call to discuss your goals, overcome obstacles, create strategies, and keep you on track.

  • Weekly accountability through Voxer, where you can update me on your goals and get suggestions and encouragement when needed.


Can you imagine what you can create in a year if you (and I) hold you accountable to your goals and consistently work on your mindset to create success?


If you are ready to invest in YOUR SUCCESS, get on my calendar for a 50-minute session to see if working together is a great fit, discuss your goals, and set up a personalized schedule for the year. Talk soon!