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Goals vs. Systems


I have shared many times about the importance of setting goals and establishing systems.  Last Wisdom Wednesday, I challenged your thinking by asking you, What’s The Hardest Target To Hit?”  It was all about setting goals and the importance of striving for them each day.  But we can’t leave the importance of systems out either.  Believe it or not, we all have systems for doing things.  Some people have really good systems, some people have really bad systems.  But before we jump into the good and bad, let’s explain the difference between a Goal and a System


A goal is a result that you want to achieve.  I have read many books on happiness and this quote keeps coming up, “Focus on the process, not the destination.”  Goals are focused on the destination.  You set goals so that you can reach a certain standard and get to a specific place in your life.  Goals are the things we strive to reach in order to be successful, in whatever area of life.  Though goals can take weeks, months, or even years to reach, they are still considered short-term.  Using goals is the short game of thinking.  They are important, but they are temporary.

For example, a good goal would be to read 25 books this year.


On the other hand, a system is a process that leads to the results you want to achieve.  Systems are focused on the journey.  They help you make the journey one step at a time.  They help you reach your goals.  As you identify steps to reach your goals, you establish a system to take those steps.  A system is the consistent approach you take to reach your goal.  And the great things about systems is that they don’t only help you reach your goals, they also help you maintain your standards and help you be consistent.  Whereas goals are considered short-term and the short game, systems are more long-term and part of the long game.

An example of a system would be a dedication to reading 30 minutes a day.  30 minutes of reading a day would help you reach your goal of reading 25 books a year.

Good vs. Bad Systems

Look at someone who is generally fit and healthy.  You can imagine that they have a good system for health.  Sure, they may have set a goal to lose 30 pounds and made it, but along the way, they established a system of keeping the weight off and getting healthier.  They learned how to eat healthy, the importance of exercising at least 30 minutes a day, and avoid the bad things in life that could kill their progress.  This is a great system, and they work it every day.

Now imagine a person who is overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy.  They may want to be healthy and in good shape, but they don’t make a point to exercise each day, they eat crappy food, and they make poor health choices like smoking, drinking excessively, or taking illegal drugs.  I’m sure you can see that they have a pretty bad system for health.  We all know what will happen if they keep this system going.

The Takeaway

Goals and systems both have a place on the road to success.  Goals are what you strive to reach…the end game…the destination.  Systems are the daily steps…the long game…the process.  They are both extremely important.  Goals help you establish your systems.  And systems help you reach your goals.  We all have systems, but we all don’t set goals.  Most likely, if you don’t have any goals, you probably don’t have very good systems.  And if you don’t have very good systems, you may be in for a big fall.  Take some time to think about how goals and systems could change your life!!!

I leave you with this quote from the book Atomic Habits by author James Clear: 

“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”

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