Goals vs Systems

Why You Need a SYSTEM for your GOAL

The holidays are WONDERFUL, but it’s also WONDERFUL when they are over. It’s nice to get all the sweets and desserts out of the house, start fresh and clean in January. Health goals are at the top of most people’s lists when it comes to resolutions.  How many years now have you said, “I am going to get healthy — I am going to finally lose this weight — I am going to start exercising”. You can even get specific: I am going to join a gym or I am going to lose 50 pounds this year.

Isn’t this what you are supposed to do — set goals?

I would like to credit Scott Adams and Ben Mulholland for this personal revelation of Systems vs Goals.  This has changed my life and I want to share.

To put it bluntly, goals are for losers… goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.” – Secret of Success: Failure by Scott Adams

… losing ten pounds is a GOAL (that most people can’t maintain), whereas learning to eat right is a SYSTEM that substitutes knowledge for willpower.” – Goals vs. Systems by Scott Adams

What are goals?

Goals are things that we want to achieve, usually expressed as a statement.

What are systems?

Systems are the opposite of goals. They are entirely about creating a repeatable set of actions.

If goals are the macro, systems are the micro. They’re HOW you achieve your goals.

Once created, the systems are self-sustaining in terms of motivation.

“I exercise because it was time to exercise – the system removed the need to spend mental energy deciding whether or not to act.”

Systems replace motivation with routine

Goals are over-arching and typically take a fair bit of time to complete. This means that the entire time you’re working towards them, you will need to motivate yourself to make progress.

It’s easier to keep up a habit than to constantly spend mental energy deciding what to do and when to do it.

By their very nature, systems encourage you to form consistent routines that will soon become second nature. Instead of telling yourself, “I should do some exercise to get fit”, you should say, “It’s Monday – time to exercise”.

After all, you get much more done when the action isn’t presented as a choice to decide on, but an action that you have to perform.

Systems are consistently rewarding

It’s disheartening to work toward a goal only to make such little progress that you feel that your efforts are going to waste.

Breaking up your goals and making smaller, short-term commitments helps a lot with this dissatisfaction, but never solves it. There will forever be a period where the actions you take aren’t allowing you to make tangible progress.

Systems give you a win every time you manage to carry out a task.

When applying my regular workout system, every instance of the system was a win. Instead of being defeated by an overarching goal every day, I was ticking off my calendar with consistent successes.

Here is my example, this will help you get started:

Sarah’s Health Goals for 2020

  • Run 1000 miles in 2020 (20 miles a week)
  • Run Rock and Roll ½ marathon 2:20 or less (shave 6 minutes off my personal record)
  • 18% body fat and STAY there (I get down to 18% but don’t stay there because I am not consistent enough with my macro-nutrition! I tend to under-fuel and skip meals.)
      System for 2020
  • Run 20 miles a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday
  • Pre-log my food in Fitness Pal for the day, part of my morning routine
  • Keep alcohol down to 2 drinks or less a week, except vacations

In my planner, I have to check off the system goals every single week.

So there you go.  What are your goals, but more importantly, what is your SYSTEM?  Health, finances, relationships — SYSTEMS ARE THE WAY TO GO!

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