Time to Ignore Your Goals?


"If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?"

I'm not anything close to a competitive runner. In fact I'm way below average when it comes to running. However, I learned something about goals while running up a long hill once. I was exhausted and my body was arguing with my mind - my body said "quit" while my mind said "keep going." I kept looking at the top of the hill. The struggle was intense. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it. I finally moved my gaze down to the road just a couple of steps ahead and kept pounding it out. Success! I reached the top of the hill without focusing on my goal, without looking at the top of the hill. Instead I focused on my process, the next step I needed to take.

James Clear wrote a good short article last fall that raised the question, "What's the difference between goals and systems?" He gave the following examples:

  • If you're a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.

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

  • If you're a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.

  • If you're an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Obviously goals are good but without a system to accomplish them, they're empty. I didn't completely ignore my goal but I set it aside for a while and focused on the next steps needed to get there. I never would have accomplished my goal of getting to the top of that hill without a system. What about your goals? Systems too? The top of the hill is important but it's the steps that will get you there.


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