The Real Key to Reaching Your Goals
By: Katelyn Lengeman, Recruiting Assistant
What if we have been lying to ourselves this whole time about setting goals? We know there are a lot of good reasons to set goals and we have heard multiple success stories about goal-setting, right? Well that may be so, but according to James Clear, behavioral science expert, in his article* titled “Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.,” there are a lot of good reasons to focus less on goals and more on the systems you use to move forward in life. This perspective can make you more consistent with your habits, happier with your present circumstances, and more realistic about your future.
Now, I’m not advocating giving up on setting goals, because I truly believe that goals can give you excellent focus and organization in your journey of life. We have, however, as a culture, put a lot of emphasis on an end goal and not how to get there. Generally goals don’t get reached by accident and they certainly won’t keep going higher and higher if you don’t focus on your system. Your system is essentially how to get to that goal. If you keep your focus on your daily tasks, your intentional decisions, and your motivation along the path to your goal, you’re that much more likely to not only meet that goal, but exceed it as well. Planning out daily intentions and setting a foundation for success is essential to forming habits that will stay with you even beyond reaching a goal.
While we are on it, reaching your goals can be tough. Often people are so focused on a goal that they are discontent with what life has placed right in front of them. Focusing on the system, or process, of day to day living, can make you enjoy your current circumstances and feel successful along a journey to a goal. James Clear uses his writing career as an example of this. He points out that if he had set out to write two books in a year, he might be frustrated with the process and feel overwhelmed with the goal. However, since he just had a small, attainable goal and a system to write one new article Mondays and Thursdays, he has accomplished writing a word count that would be equal or more than two books combined. He was satisfied along the process and will be able to continue his process because he has a system and he knows can continue to attain that weekly goal.
Since James knows that this is an attainable and sustainable system for his writing, he can more accurately assess what he is capable accomplishing in the future. If you have a goal without a system in place, you don’t have much knowledge to inform the attainability of that goal. You also have no guarantee that the goal will be retained over time if it isn’t based on a solid system. Let’s say you have a goal to lose ten pounds, if you employ drastic measures to drop the weight and hit the goal, it’s not very realistic that you will keep that weight off. Instead, if you develop habits of eating healthy and exercising regularly, you’re much more likely to reach your goal, keep the weight off, and potentially lose more than you anticipated.
There is a lot of value in goals, without a doubt. However, if goal-setting is where you stop, there’s a high possibility that you will never reach that goal. A realistic system is a sure way to keep consistently moving towards your goals, stay more positive about the process, and plan more realistically about your future. As James Clear puts it, “Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win.”