August 1, 2021
We often hear great people say, “Set your goals if you want to achieve success in life.” But nobody tells us how goals hinder our long-term success. If you want to be successful, forget about setting goals and focus on your systems. Goals are about the results you want to achieve, and systems are about the processes that lead to those results. For instance, if someone wants to get rich, they worry about being rich and not HOW they can be rich. Likewise, a person trying to get lean will worry more about the transformation in their body and not what efforts they are putting in or what diet they are taking to reach the goal. Focusing on goals instead of systems will never grant you long-term success. So if you are one of those who are determined to achieve a goal, this is for you. Here, I will discuss four major challenges that arise when deciding to proceed on a goal-oriented path.
First Challenge: Set Systems Not Goals
The first setback or the challenge we will discuss is how winners and losers run the same race. Whoever says goals differentiate winners from losers is wrong. Winners and losers have the same goals. Goals don’t differentiate them; their systems do. A person trying to get in shape has the same goal as a lean man who was once obese. The difference between both of them is their systems. It’s the way they implement their methods that determine where they have reached. Both of them had a common goal: to be fit. The difference is the hard work they put in to get there. A common person wishing to be successful and a super successful celebrity both have the same purpose. When a celebrity began their journey, they were exactly where the poor man was today. Today, people know celebrities or famous personalities because of their systems to reach their wants. If successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goals cannot differentiate winners from losers. It wasn’t the goal of being successful that make celebrities a star overnight. The consistent efforts gradually lead to the making of a world-famous celebrity.
Second Challenge: Focus on Inputs
The second thing that comes into the picture is that people think achieving their goal is the final step towards success. Achieving your goals is only a momentary change. The ongoing efforts after achieving the goal are what determine success. Imagine you have a messy room, and you set a goal to clean it. You summon the energy to clean it today, and now you have a tidy room. But it’s just for today. If you continue to be sloppy and inconsistent, the room will again be as messy as it was in a couple of days. You will again aim at cleaning your room now. You are left chasing the same outcome because you never changed the system behind it. You treated the symptom without addressing the cause. We think we need to change the results, but the results are not the problem; the problem is the system that causes those results. To improve for good, you need to solve the problem at the systems level. Focus on fixing the inputs, and the outputs will fit themselves.
Third Challenge: Happiness over Success
How many successful people are genuinely happy? The third major challenge we face is that goals restrict your happiness. The assumption behind any goal is that when you achieve the goal, then you will be happy. The problem behind this mentality is that you are constantly putting off your happiness until you reach the next breakthrough. We assume happiness is something for our future selves to enjoy. We often promise ourselves that once we lose 10kg or have acne-free skin, we will ultimately be satisfied, and then we can finally relax. We mentally box ourselves into a narrow version of happiness. It is unlikely that our actual path through life will match the journey we had in mind when we set out. We often restrict our happiness to one situation when there are many paths to success. When we fall in love with the process instead of the outcome, we don’t have to permit ourselves to be happy. The system can be successful in many forms, and not just the one you initially envisioned.
Fourth Challenge: Aim for long term progress
The final and most challenging problem that arises is that goals are at odds with long-term progress. You cannot expect to grow perpetually if achieving your goal means success to you. Many students work hard for months before their exams, and once the exams are over, so is their motivation to keep learning. The exams are no longer there to stimulate them. When all of your hard work is focused on one particular goal, there’s nothing left to keep you moving forward once you achieve it. This is why most people relapse to their old habits after accomplishing their goals. The objective of setting goals is to win the race. The objective of building systems is to continue running the race. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It is not about the completion of the goal but the continuous cycle of limitless learning. Eventually, it is your dedication to the process that will define your progress.
To combine this all, if you want better results, forget about the goals. Focus on building your systems instead. You do not rise to the level of your goals; you fall to the level of your systems. No matter how clear your goal is, you will keep failing if your systems aren’t efficient. Once you start building a solid system, there are limitless goals you can achieve. Success is the product of your daily habits, and habits are a double-edged sword. If they can work for you, they can also work against you. Invest in good habits, and you will achieve your goals subsequently.