Systems, Not Goals

A few weeks ago I said to my husband Bill, “The pandemic may go on for a long time. What do you want to remember about this time? What do you want to feel good about years from now?” This is what it’s like to live with a professional speaker and coach — at times, very annoying.

Then I ran across this meme online, and I thought about the question again: 

Goal setting has been on my mind. I have been reading Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. According to Clear, it’s actually best if we establish systems rather than set goals. Goals are an endpoint, and you may or may not ever achieve them. A system is a set of habits or actions taken in pursuit of the goal. As evidenced by the meme, sometimes goals are not completely within our control!

However, systems and habits are reachable and within our control. And even if we don’t reach all of our goals, if we establish great systems, our lives will be better.

For example:

Goal: Have fewer cavities.

System: Brush and floss twice a day

Likely result: The system will lead to better oral hygiene. The goal may or may not be realized.

Goal: Run a marathon in 2020.

System: Run every day following a training plan.

Likely result: Improved health and stamina, likely prepared to run a marathon.

Goal: Lose 5 pounds during quarantine.

System: Eat cut-up veggies every time I am hungry and it’s not meal time.

Likely result: Better health, more vegetables eaten, will likely lose some weight.

We cannot control outcomes, but we can control the process. Making a 1% improvement every day will create long-term habits and a better life. but don’t take my word for it, take it from James Clear!

What is the next system you will put in place to improve your life?

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