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Should You Be Setting Goals?

January 2, 2014

Daily ReadShould You Be Setting Goals? Here’s a Better Way…

We all have things that we want to achieve in our lives- building a successful business, raising a wonderful family, running a marathon, and so on.  And for most of us, the path to those things starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. However, 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 is 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 an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.  Now for the really interesting question: If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?  For example, if you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results?  I think you would.  Here 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 essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.” The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved.

SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal.  This helps keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule.

2. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress. You might think your goal will keep you motivated over the long-term, but that’s not always true. Many people will work hard for months, but as soon as they finish, they stop working. Their goal was to finish the job and now that they have completed it, that goal is no longer there to motivate them.

SOLUTION: Release the need for immediate results and look at the longer term. Think if you were training at the gym and were on your second-to-last set of cleans and jerks. When you hit that rep, you feel a small tweak in your leg. It wasn’t painful or an injury, just a sign of fatigue near the end of your workout. You then didn’t do your final set. Reminding yourself that you plan to do this for the rest of your life and decided to call it a day. That’s looking for results in the long term.

3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you have no control over.  You can’t predict the future. But every time you set a goal, you try to do it. We try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way.

SOLUTION: Build feedback loops.  Feedback loops allow you to keep track of many different pieces without feeling the pressure to predict what is going to happen with everything. Forget about predicting the future and build a system that can signal when you need to make adjustments.

None of this is to say that goals are useless. However, you can find out that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.

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