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What if we have goals all wrong? Instead, we should focus on this.

What if I was to say that the true purpose of our goals is to show us things about ourselves? A really good goal tends to present us with all sorts of demons – resistance in the form of doubting beliefs, emotional responses, thoughts and behaviors. The goal should ideally bring them all to the foreground. But, what if the benefit we get from pursuing the goals is the same as or more than, the meaning we get from actually achieving the goals.

What am I getting at?

What if instead of focusing on goals we instead we focused on systems i.e the day to day process of goal getting. Why? Goals, in isolation can actually have negative impacts on our progression, take a look;

  1. Goals can reduce your current happiness

When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”

The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once, I reach my goal, I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.” Who are you kidding? It’s an unrealistic expectation that achieving a goal will help every area of your life. It’s teaching you to bury your head in the sand and not deal with life’s issues.
A healthier approach is to be fully aware of your emotions. If you’re are sad or anxious, is it really because you haven’t reached your goal or is it because you doubt your competence to do so? These doubts won’t just go away when you reach your goal, they will linger in the background until you deal with them. Having a systematic approach to your goals, keeps your eyes open on the day by day journey and in turn encourages you to tackle other problems head on.
Don’t commit to giving up on life until you reach a destination. It’s unrealistic and you are setting yourself up to be unhappy when all of your problems are not resolved when your goal is achieved. Instead, commit to enjoying your journey towards your goals which means actively participating in your own happiness and not hinging it on goal posts.

2. Undue burden on your shoulders

We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best selling book. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time. The whole concept of saving until retirement or putting your head down and being miserable until you reach your goals, is flawed. This is it. Life is happening right now. Imagine looking back and feeling like you didn’t even live? Take pride in your daily systems, work out what allows you to be most productive each day. This mind-set also allows for more “self-care”. If you feel burnt out today, than you stop working, take a break or do some yoga because you know that you will be doing the same productivity process, every day. However if you have the mind-set of I have a goal than you are less likely to take time out to recover, which burns you out more and is counter productive to your goal.

3. You assume you can tell the future

We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way. There is a far more efficient way to reach objectives using a systematic approach called “feedback loops”. Feedback looping at it’s simplest is incremental analysis of your progress. Take marketing data for example – your goal is to generate 50 Facebook leads however, by routinely analysing your process, twice a week, you stay competitive by being able to change your strategy according to your assessments (aka feedback loops). Feedback loops also have one more, very important benefit, it releases the need for short term results. Systems-based thinking is never about hitting a particular number, it’s about sticking to the process and not missing work time. If you put in the work than, you will get the results and this is why systems are more valuable than goals. Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term process. In the end, process always wins.

Final points – I am not saying goals are useless…

However, goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.

Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.