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Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

Goals vs. systems

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counterintuitive thing about improvement: We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. 

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Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.

https://jamesclear.com/goals-systems

jamesclear.com

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Key Ideas

Goals vs. systems

Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counterintuitive thing about improvement: We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that cause those results. 

Goal setting and survivorship bias

We concentrate on the people who end up winning 🥇 —the survivors—and mistakenly assume that ambitious goals led to their success while overlooking all of the people who had the same objective but didn’t succeed.

Goals restrict your happiness

The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone.

True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. It’s not about any single accomplishment, but  about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Goal setting
Goal setting

Is the act of selecting a target or objective you wish to achieve.

Goal setting is not only about choosing the rewards you want to enjoy, but also the costs you are willing to pay t...

The Rudders and Oars Metaphor
It helps clarify the difference between SYSTEMS and GOALS:
  • Your goals are like the rudder on a small rowboat. They set the direction and determine where you go. 
  • If you commit to one goal, then the rudder stays put and you continue moving forward. 
  • If you flip-flop between goals, then the rudder moves all around and it is easy to find yourself rowing in circles.
  • If the rudder is your goal, then the oars are your process for achieving it. While the rudder determines your direction, it is the oars that determine your progress.

Example: If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.

How to Set Goals You'll Actually Follow
  1. Ruthlessly Eliminate Your Goals. Consistently prune and trim down your goals. If you can muster the courage to prune away a few of your goals, then you create the space you need for the remaining goals to fully blossom.
  2. Stack Your Goals. Make a specific plan for when, where and how you will perform this."Networking: After I return from my lunch break, I will send one email to someone I want to meet."
  3. Set an Upper Bound. Don't focus on the minimum threshold. Instead of saying,  “I want to make at least 10 sales calls today.” rather say, “I want to make at least 10 sales calls today, but not more than 20.”

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Personal Objective Key Results - OKR
Personal Objective Key Results - OKR

OKRs take big lofty goals, segment them into objectives, and then tie each of those objectives to actionable Key Results.

The Objective is the point on the...

Setting your personal OKR
  • Decide on your mission for your quarter.
  • Break mission down into objectives. 
  • Draft your Key Results. Key Results are specific, timely and measurable indicators of your progress.
  • Consider the purpose of each KR.
  • Find an accountability partner
  • Check in every 2–4 weeks with your partner. 
Stop following routines

Routines don’t work for most people. People with young kids, pets, people who travel a lot or work remotely, find it extremely difficult to follow the same routine every day. If you keep trying, yo...

Focus on the process

It is better to focus on the process rather than the outcome. When you focus on the outcome, you slow your growth.

Commit to consistent practice. Focus on the process of getting better every single day. 

Small progress

Most people lack success because they cannot follow a routine to achieve an important goal.

Instead of fighting a losing battle, learn to move around these tasks to start making progress when you can. 

Identity-Based Habits

Building these habits means focusing on the type of person you wish to become rather than the outcome you wish to achieve.

Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your curre...

Change can occur at 3 levels
  • Outcomes: changing your results - losing weight, publishing a book, etc.
  • Process: changing your habits and systems - implementing a new routine at the gym, developing a meditation practice, etc.
  • Identity: changing your beliefs - worldview, self-image, judgments.
Changing your beliefs about yourself
  1. Decide the type of person you want to be;
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins;

You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.

Goal-Setting

Any goal or project will usually have these basic qualities:

  • A general ambition or motivation. (e.g. learn French)
  • A specific target. (e.g.  speak fluently)
Goals To Start In The Middle

When a goal has high uncertainty as to what level is achievable to reach within a particular time-frame, it is better to set specific targets in the middle of the process.

Plan your goals with the variables you do have: overall direction, time-frame, level of effort and strategies.

Reasons To Postpone Goal-Setting
  • Uncertain goals should be set in the middle. This will enable you to set the correct challenge level to maximize effort.
  • Some research shows that for very complex tasks, goal-setting can hinder effectiveness. This is because complex tasks are cognitively demanding in the beginning and can be frustrating because you can't perform adequately. To add on more tasks can impair your performance.

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The Rush of Motivation

During the first week of the new year, there is a rush of motivated people who want to achieve their respective self-improvement goals. But then all this rush always tapers off, with only about 8 %...

Procrastinating

Procrastination, or the way we let pending tasks linger on, just avoiding them, is one of the main reasons our goals don't materialize.

The longer any work is avoided the harder it becomes to eventually do it.

Like dishes piling up in the kitchen sink, they get harder and harder to do as the load increases.

Fear as the Cause of Inaction

Fear causes us to procrastinate. It can be:

  • Fear of change
  • Fear of leaving our comfort zone
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of what other people would think of us

We justify these fears by imaginary different reasons, but the root cause is not related to our invented reasons, it is our inherent fear.

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Goal setting gives focus

Life is designed in such a way that we look long-term and live short-term. We dream for the future and live in the present. 

Setting goals provides long-term vision in our lives.

Practical goal setting
  • Evaluate and reflect. Regularly write down where you are right now, and if you are happy with your current level of satisfaction.
  • Define your dreams and goals. What do you want? Schedule some quiet “dream time” and think about what really thrills you. Then prioritise those dreams.
  • Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive)
  • Have accountability. Find someone to hold you accountable to your goals.
Setting work goals
  • Set goals at regular intervals and give yourself enough time.
  • When you think you might not meet a goal, take a step back to asses the situation.
  • Be transparen...
Goals should be aspirational

If you fail to meet them, you probably set difficult ones for yourself.
Goals should inspire you to stretch yourself. If you hit all of your goals every time, they might not be ambitious enough.

Be in the Right Mindset

To put yourself in the right mindset, you need to:

  • Know your 'why': why is accomplishing this goal important to you.
  • Read the right books and talk to people with s...
Make the Habit a Priority

The most effective way to turn your goal into a habit is to plan ahead. 

You can't hope that your goals will happen to fit into your current schedule, or that by nature you will prioritize it. You have to plan your schedule and block out time. 

Have an Accountability Buddy

An accountability buddy can work really well when you're doing everything else right.

The key is finding someone reliable and truly committed. If you can't find someone to be an accountability buddy, ask your family for support.

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A system is...
  • Something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of success regardless of the immediate outcome.
  • A collection of goals, tools, habits, and methods is not the sam...
Systems vs. goals
  • If you do something every day, it’s a system.
  • If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.
James Clear
James Clear
“When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.”

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