Goals vs Systems

In theory, I’m a goal setter. 1000 miles running in one year, for example. I went from couch potato to three worn out pairs of shoes. Oh, there’s plenty more goals where that came from too.

I read an interesting post recently and realized I might have been focused on the wrong part of my goal setting. What if it’s less about the goal and more about the system or process of reaching that goal.

Running 1000 miles, for example, didn’t happen because I focused on running 1000 miles. It happened because I had to run about three miles per day. Each day when I got home from work, I pounded out either three, six, or nine miles. Depending on how many days off I took between runs. That was doable and fun.

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 a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

  • If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

The question James Clear asks on the post is really great.

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

Sure, setting the metrics (goal setting) to build your system is good. But, are you robbing yourself the joy of the journey by focusing on the goals instead of the process? Could be. Are you a bit more aimless because the goal is huge and you’ve never worked out the system to reach it? Let’s fix that.