In Article 022 on “SMART Goals” I talked about how we can create “smarter” and better goals that are more reliable, and make it simpler to achieve them—because of the so-called fact that we have hence made that goals are one of the most accountable tools for success. You can read how to make your goals SMART here.
But don’t go off so fast! Here, I want to talk about why goals are ineffective, and rather to some extent, even futile. I believe systems are better for long-term success and will make the process and path to the ultimate goal feel much better than that with the traditional goal, and then doing the work, which sometimes can be annoying or despairing.
I first got the idea of systems and goals from Dilbert Cartoonist Scott Adams from his book: “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life”. You can check it out here. And ever since I got acquainted with the theory, I’ve started looking at goals from a completely different perspective.
The dispute is between goals and systems. Literally the word “systems” means: a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.
And here, it means something similar. It is a procedure which when carried out creates results.
And this is my case for why systems are better than goals:
To achieve something, you don’t just need a goal. However SMART and specific and precise it may be. Your goal has an endpoint. Systems are for life. Your goal doesn’t exactly show you what you need to do to achieve it. Systems do that and much more. I’m not saying goals are completely worthless. Oh no, I’m not. I’m just wanting to put forth a way in which goals and systems work together. And how they can have a symbiotic relationship.
A goal is a destination. It’s important to have in the first place because without goals we will never reach anywhere. As humans, mostly, we have a tendency to act only if it has some or the other consequence that we would like or want it to have, either for our benefit or someone or something completely different. So we need a goal and a purpose to use up our energy. Without a goal, we won’t know what to do.
But systems are kind of like the path to the goal which never ends (even if you’ve achieved your goal) For example:
– Your goal may be to get straight A’s in all your subjects. Your system will be to study for 3 hours a day and constantly log and review your progress.
– Your goal may be to lose 10 pounds of weight. Your system will be to exercise 5 times a week and eat calories from good protein, fibers and fats.
– Your goal may be to learn how to play the guitar. Your system will be how often you practice playing it, the lessons and notes you take, and the way you enhance every chord and improve after every lesson.
Both, goals and systems are required to succeed. They both benefit from each other. If there were no goals, there would be no systems. And even vice-versa to some extent. But, we are not really giving the volume of attention to our systems as much as they require. In fact, systems require more significance and attention. Because goals are constant. Systems can still change. After a while systems become habitual if done truly and regularly. These systems can be life-changing, literally. Because it is the act (however small it may be) you do constantly that adds up to a tremendous outcome.
It’s usually never hard for a healthy person with a good build and/or six pack abs to go to the gym. Because he loves going to the gym! He doesn’t care, mostly, how he’ll look like after going to the gym or how he is benefitting from exercising, though he is aware of the fact and of the purpose of him going to the gym which may be his personal perspective on it. But he doesn’t miss any of his gym days since he has a positive system of going to the gym and he enjoys it.
The same doesn’t happen with goals. Goals actually confine your happiness. Because most people when on the path of achieving goals think in this way: “When I do so and so, I’ll be happy”, or “When I reach my goal, I’ll be happy.” You’re not prioritizing your happiness when setting goals and always look for the milestone to achieve and then become happy. But that never happens. Because, once you achieve that goal which was supposed to make you happy, you find another and say, “When I finish this goal then I’ll be happy.” And it results in an infinite feedback loop. And you’re never happy.
But you can choose a system you like to achieve a goal you want to achieve.
Using systems to your advantage is really beneficial and is a much better option than relying on goals, and goals alone. Combine systems and goals, and give your systems equal, if not more importance and work to perfect your skill habitually, yet always improvingly, through your systems.
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