You Should Focus on the System, Not the Goal

Goal-planning has been all-the-rage in the wellness world for the past few years. You got everybody and their grandma throwing their planners, workbooks, and journals at your face at every turning corner. But is goal-setting by itself enough? Goals give us direction but you know what will give you the direct journey to them? SYSTEMS. When you focus on systems you build the foundation for habits that will help you arrive at your goal. Goals help you plan for progress. The system helps you make progress. The goal is the destination. The system will drive you there. Do you want to go in a Tesla or a Pinto?


01. Goals are inflexible.


Most of the time, when we set goals, we focus on making them a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). This is great for getting them out on paper, but will they take into account the changing mitigating factors? For instance, if you want to buy a house in 3 years, you’ll have to consider that the housing market may look different. You may have a different job, your significant other and income could change. But are you a failure if you don’t get a house in 3 years, but it takes you 5 years instead? If you want to be a Dentist by age 30 but you don’t get into dental school the first, or even a second time, are you a failure if you get in on the third time but you’re 32? When we set goals, we should focus on building the system that will get us to the destination. If you want a clean room, the goal should be to put your things back after you use them to create the system that will support the ‘clean room’ goal. When you make the goal simply to have a clean room, you will get the room clean in an instance but your habits of throwing your things down will remain. And so you’ll continue to have a messy room that constantly needs a deep clean. If you want to eat healthier and you plan to cut out all sugar, you could drive yourself into an obsession about being healthy (like orthorexia)


02. Goals can limit your view of success


A lot of the time, people will set goals so that they can feel happy or feel successful. Yet, because they attach their happiness to the goal, they don’t feel like they’ve achieved anything. Example, when you set a goal to lose weight, you’ll subconsciously say “I’ll like my body when I’m at 150 pounds.” Why wait until you’ve lost weight to feel good about yourself? If you don’t respect and care for the body you have now you won’t pick the healthiest habits to get to the goal. Fad diets like intermittent fasting and ketogenic eating can give you results in a short amount of time, but they're unsustainable if you attach them to negative feelings you currently have. Once you reach your goal weight, you’ll feel happier, then slip into old habits. It doesn’t work this way. It can pull you into “yo-yo” cycling where you achieve the goal, feel happy and successful, relax back into old habits, feel like a failure, set a new goal, do it all over again. When you focus on the system, you can feel successful every day and every time you follow through with a systemic task. Success is when you consistently choose a 30-minute pilates home workout video instead of laying on the couch for hours in front of Love & Hip Hop. (Really, you could do both and still have a pretty eventful day. No judgment). Success is when you tackle a blog post weekly or daily, not just when you’ve amassed hundreds of posts over time. Success can be in each step. Goals are arbitrary and designed to be terminal but you can stop and smell the buds while you’re trekking to the full-blown rose bush.


03. Goals are like assholes, everyone has one.


Everyone has a goal just like everyone has a bootyhole. Everyone has a fitness goal or income goal but everyone with a goal will not achieve it. Goals can make you seem like a winner, or a loser no matter what kind of time and energy you spent. Just because you set a goal doesn’t mean that you’ll achieve it. The one barrier to success for those who ‘lose’ is not having the proper system setup for your success. If your system is too rigid or too flexible, you can create some conflict of interest between your behaviors and your progress. Like James Clear mentioned in his eponymous book, you fall to the levels of your systems.


Continuous improvement is a feat that anyone can achieve, but the systems you implement will determine how much progress you actually make. When your day to day tasks are built on creating 1% improvements each day, you’ll fare better than obsessively attacking a goal with fad diets, get rich quick schemes, and the like. Systems create future success and the current feeling of success.


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