There is no shortage of cheer-leading around setting BIG GOALS in business circles.
All that RAH RAH RAH-ing makes me tired.
The longer I live and run my business the more I have replaced goal setting with intentions and experimentation. Here’s why…
Goals are external and by design make you feel “less than” while making you susceptible to going all-out towards one thing over which you have no control that may or may not happen. Typically neglecting other important parts of your life in the process.
Sounds like a picnic, right?
Yet almost every expert you talk to will hammer home setting goals, goals goals.
Scott Adams of Dilbert fame writes about this in a very succinct way:
“… you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.”
Essentially when you are working towards a goal you are reinforcing a loser mindset according to James Clear.
I know this from personal experience. I’ve had my share of hollow-feeling goal achievement in my life. The list is long and is filled with many things that felt like “shoulds”.
With goals you feel “not good enough” until you reach the goal (if you’re lucky) and then after a moment of celebration (often accompanied by an empty feeling) you’re back on the goal train again feeling like you’re “less than” once again.
Does this sound like a cycle of enjoyment and happiness to strive for?
That’s why I prefer to focus on systems and habits in my own business and with my clients.
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Why Systems and Habits Trump Goals
- You control what you do and why
- Repeatable actions frequently lead to achieving great things
- You get to feel like a confident, capable, and skillful human being along the journey. You are enough as you are.
Belle Beth Cooper articulates the distinction between systems and habits quite well.
A system is a process you follow. It’s repeatable, and it leads to the same (or similar) results each time.
A habit is a repeatable action. It’s something you do without thinking about it—unlike a system, which could be a series of actions you take, like an exercise plan that incorporates running, gym, and rest days.
These work together. The system acts as a container for your actions. You can be more nimble, intentional, and effective this way. That is why they create leverage for your business in a way that nothing else can.
When you intentionally create systems, you no longer have to overthink every choice, every day. Decision fatigue melts away as you make greater, faster strides towards what you really desire every day. You reach the end of each day knowing that you measure success by effort and action, not outcomes. If you set up your systems effectively, outcomes become a natural byproduct of the system.
You can rely on systems when things are going great and when everything is going haywire. Like a lighthouse in the fog, they are there for you as a business owner. You can count on them. As a result your business can produce consistent, repeatable results over time empowering you to grow in a sustainable way. This makes it a heck of a lot easier to plan your life and infinitely more satisfying to sit back and savor the success.