Kill your goals. Do this instead.


It’s here. The time of year when new goals replace the failed goals of the previous year. A burst of energy. A shot of inspiration. “Let’s do this new year!” we shout from our notebooks, calendars, and social media pages. Yet the little voice in the back of our head knows it’s likely in vain. A hint of doubt from somewhere in our subconscious whispers,

Why are we doing this again?

We know it’s never worked before, but the energy and inspiration of the new year override our practicality and logic, believing that we’ll somehow surmise the willpower to do it this time around. The problem? Our willpower is really good at failing us.

The good news?

It’s not our fault. We’re all subject to the same faulty willpower.

The even better news?

It’s fixable. If you want to truly change the trajectory of your life, ditch the goals and create systems instead.

You see, creating the best version of ourselves possible actually has nothing to do with the goals we set. Instead, it has everything to do with the systems we put in place to make being at our best as easy and frictionless as possible. This is something high achievers have always known – make succeeding easy, and make failing difficult. If you do that, you don’t have to rely on willpower. You simply rely on functioning within systems that make succeeding in whatever you’re trying to accomplish simpler and easier. I’ll give you a few examples of how to use systems instead of goals over the coming year.

WORK

Let’s say you’re a sales rep. Tradition might tell you to set some high sales goal for the year – maybe it’s to be the top sales rep at your company, or maybe it’s a certain dollar figure. The problem is that this goal tells you nothing about how to achieve it.

Using the systems method, you wouldn’t focus on the end result, and would instead focus on building systems that make being a high achiever attainable. You would create a system that says “I will set a timer for 60 minutes at the beginning and end of each work day, and I will do nothing but make sales calls during that time.” When the timer is up, then you can get back to the other parts of your day. By doing this, you’re giving the action and system priority, not the goal.

Become top sales rep in the company.

Set a timer for 60 minutes at the beginning and end of each work day, and do nothing but make sales calls during that time.

The same goes for any type of work. Whether you’re a doctor, administrative assistant, sales rep, or plumber, ditch the goals and instead build systems that make success inevitable.

HEALTH

A traditional health goal for the new year might be something like losing 10 pounds. Without systems to achieve this goal, the goal itself is meaningless. If we instead focus on building systems, the person wanting to lose weight would set a rule for themselves that they won’t keep any junk food in the house – only meats, fruits, and veggies allowed. When willpower would historically falter as we reach for the bag of chips in our cabinet, our system has set us up for success by making the lack of willpower a moot point.

Lose 10 pounds.

Remove everything but meat, veggies, and fruit from our house, and only buy these items at the grocery store.


Goals, skill attainment, success, progress, and outcomes are all lag measures. At best, they’re rough guesses at the future, and at worst they’re distractions that deter us from making any real progress. By setting up systems for success, our progress is inevitable. We likely will end up achieving what we would have historically set as a goal, without ever even focusing on the outcome.

Creating the best version of ourselves has nothing to do with the goals we set. It has everything to do with the systems we create to make that possible. By aligning our environment (our systems) with our intentions (where we want to go), success goes from being a friction-filled uphill battle to a mostly frictionless stroll. We simply have to show up and do the work.

This year, do yourself a favor. Kill your goals and create systems instead. Your future self will thank you.

Enjoyed the article?

Ajg

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Published by Adam Griffin

Adam is an entrepreneur & writer. He is the former founder of Bodeefit, and is the author of Redwood: A Guide to Leading a Remarkable Life. He lives in Denver, CO with his wife and kids.

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