Setting Systems to Achieve Goals

By Ginger Hanson

A couple years ago, I read the book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams (also the author of Dilbert). In it, he talks about using systems instead of goals. He expands on this topic in a great article that you can read here. While he doesn’t necessarily rule out goals completely, he is definitely more for systems rather than goals.

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He gives the example of losing ten pounds as a goal whereas learning to eat right is a system. Losing 10 pounds has a very definite completion point. Eating right is a system that would be put in place for the long term that would achieve that goal, but also much more. He gives a few examples in his article, but this excerpt sums it up quite nicely:

My problem with goals is that they are limiting. Granted, if you focus on one particular goal, your odds of achieving it are better than if you have no goal. But you also miss out on opportunities that might have been far better than your goal. Systems, however, simply move you from a game with low odds to a game with better odds. With a system you are less likely to miss one opportunity because you were too focused on another. With a system, you are always scanning for any opportunity.

I love this. And I completely agree. Yet, I still believe in the benefit of setting goals. I get that it can limit you because you can focus solely on that goal, but I think there’s a happy medium that one can achieve – by utilizing both goals and systems. By setting a goal and thereby setting a direction, you can implement systems to help you achieve that goal. And if those systems are maintainable, you can keep them going after you reach a goal so you can maintain the original goal status at minimum. To me, goals are necessary to establish a direction to take your life so that you can focus on ways (systems) to get there. Without goals, what systems do you focus on implementing into your life?

I like to think of our 30-day challenges in that light – a system and a goal. We’re setting a goal for the duration of the challenge and it’s clear if we meet the goal or not. It limits the focus to just the goal. However, it’s also trying out a system for 30 days to see if it’s one that’s sustainable within our current lives. Win, win right? I’m curious, are there systems you employ in your life to meet your goals? Leave us a comment, we'd love to hear them!

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