Goals and Systems

For most of us the path to success starts by setting a specific and actionable goal, But, when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things. It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.

What’s the difference between goals and systems? If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day. If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week. If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

There are three more reasons to focus on systems instead of goals.

1. Goals reduce your current happiness. When you’re working toward a goal, you are suspending your happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. Solution: Commit to a process, not a goal. Choosing a goal puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Instead, reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than overworrying.

2. Goals are at odds with long-term progress. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to motivate you after you achieve it? Solution: Release the need for immediate results. Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process.

3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you can’t. Every time we set a goal, we try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise. Solution: Build feedback loops. Feedback loops are important for building good systems because they allow you to keep track of many different pieces without feeling the pressure to predict what is going to happen.

None of this is to say that goals are useless. Goals are good for planning progress and systems are good for actually making progress.

Summing-up: Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.

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