Let’s pretend for a moment: you completely ignored setting goals, while entirely committing to a system.
Would you still get results?
January 1st is known as New Year’s Day and the time to set resolutions. The word resolutions, after all, means to “settle or find a solution to” something – usually a problem. It is supposed to the time to decide on a course of action.
Traditionally, the plan starts with setting a specific goal that you can apply and measure.
- If you are a business owner, your goal is to increase sales.
- If you are a writer, your goal is to write a book.
- If you are an athlete, your goal is to improve a skill.
- If you are overweight, your goal is to lose weight.
Again, the old way is: set a goal, put in work.
While that is better than doing nothing, there is a better way to reach your goals.
Systems beat goals, even when goals are not set. Goals are met when systems are used for success.
Difference Between Goals and Systems
Above, I listed four goals. Now I will list the systems, that could accompany each goal, instead.
- If you are a business owner, your system is a process for marketing and sales (your goal is to increase sales).
- If you are a writer, your system is a daily schedule for writing (your goal is to write a book).
- If you are an athlete, your system is regular practice (your goal is to improve a skill).
- If you are overweight, your system is what you eat, how you move, and manage stress (your goal is to lose weight).
Now let me reframe the opening situation in another way:
You completely ignore having a system and only focus on your goal.
Would you still get results?
Hell no. This is not my opinion. Numbers don’t lie. Unfortunately, this is what happens every year, beginning in January and little by a lot all year.
Here’s the rate of resolution failure:
- 27.4% after the first week
- 31.6% after the 2nd week
- 41.6% by February
- 55..2% by summer
Here’s an example, if you were a coach and ignored a goal of winning the championship and instead put your focus on making sure your team had excelled in practice, every day, do you think you would get results.
Of course. That is how winning is done.
Take me for example. For years, I had the goal of being a blogger. I’d set a goal in the fall, plan all winter, launch in January and by the summer, I would have fallen off.
It has happened three times: Facebook Notes, mispibo.com, and fitcitymke.com.
As they say, third time’s the charm.
January 21st, 2015, before I launched www.ambrosewb.com, I focused on my system for blogging. The three main parts of my system were:
- Writing in my journal, daily.
- Saving health and fitness articles to Evernote.
- Scheduling 2 hours blocks of uninterrupted time, for writing
By December 21st, 2015, I had written almost 100 articles!
I focused on the process, or work, clearly laid out in my system. One year later, I am still blogging. With over 60 articles posted to my site in 2016, I still have another 50 or 60 of my saved articles that I can use for inspiration in 2017.
Regardless of your goal, here are three facts that should help you focus on systems for success:
Expectations kill your joy.
My meditation coach, Bill, told me, “Expectations kill your joy.” Goals work the same way. When you are expecting to reach a target, your happiness attached to the completion of that goal.
This mindset is problematic because it forces you to expect your happiness later while working hard now. The expectation of success and happiness in the future will kill both.
Instead of thinking, “Once I have [my goal], then I will be happy,” winners already see themselves as successful because they are doing the work that comes with success.
ANSWER: Progress over the prize.
Goals can put much unnecessary stress on your mind. You would not be reading this today if I had made it my goal to write 100 articles in less than one year. As I write that, I realize it would have been entirely unrealistic if I did.
So why do we burden ourselves with goals every year? Losing weight, succeeding in business or mastering a skill. This year, reduce your stress by keeping it simple. Focus on your process daily, and let the goal come to you.
When you focus on progress over perfection, you can enjoy that you are getting better every day.
Goals can be at war with your long-term development.
When you set your goal, you are motivated. You think you will stay motivated over time, but this rarely happens.
Think about someone training for a bodybuilding competition. They would have to work extremely hard, for months, even years to complete. As soon as they walk off stage, they stuff their face. Their goal was to get in the best shape as possible, and now they have completed it, what’s the motivation?
When you achieve a goal you have focused and worked hard for, there is nothing left to push you as you move forward.
This is what happens when people “yo-yo” diet. People go up and down as they work on a goal and then stop working towards a goal. This type of roller coaster makes progress a wild ride that eventually halts to a stop.
ANSWER: Give up the need for instant gratification
In the past, I have injured myself either in the gym or recreational activity. There has been a moment where I could stop, but I wanted “it” now. “It” for me, is to perfectly execute or plan or perform at a high level. Instead, I found myself not working out at all.
Now, I remind myself that I am going to be physically active for a long time and I need to be able to perform as I get older.
In the case above, when you are focused on a goal, you will push yourself hard at the moment thinking it will help you reach your aim. A goal-based mindset means you are a failure unless your reach your goal.
Now look at the systems-based mentality. Today, I have no problem easing off of my training intensity. Because my system does not put my focus on specific numbers or performances. Instead, my intention is moving every day for at least 20 minutes.
Is that all that I do? Of course not. It’s just one way that I can be self-aware that my lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint.
Goals give you a false sense of control
No matter how hard you grind, you will never be able to predict the future. Some things are outside of your control. This includes the result.
Goals suggest you are in control.
You plan this, and you plan that with the idea that it will lead you somewhere. If you are like most, you set benchmarks for success even though barriers and obstacles always arise.
ANSWER: Use a feedback loop to stay on track
At the end of each week, I spend 20 minutes punching numbers and color-coding a Google Sheet. There are essential metrics that I need to run my business.
For example, I am tracking the conversion rate (the percentage of website visitors who sign up for my free email newsletter). Early on, I had the number “100” stuck in my head. For whatever reason, I thought I should not launch my blog until I reached 100 subscribers.
Now, I rarely think about this number. On the other hand, I track this metric so that I can improve my opt-in forms and free resources. When someone signs up, I know I am doing something right, and I can continue to create good content.
Feedback loops allow you to keep track without the extra pressure of trying to predict the future. At the same time – you know what’s happening. Use a system that will allow you to assess and make the adjustments.
Date, Engage and Marry The Progress
I am not saying you should not use goals any more than I’m saying you should not fall in love.
I am saying that love will help your marriage like systems with will help your progression.
People who create specific resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals than people who do not. Plans do have power. However, you do not set goals just for planning. Use a system if you want to make progress.
In the short-term, goals are useful for providing direction, but behind every winner is a well-designed system.
Systems matter more.
Make the decision that process makes you stronger than planning.