Creating Systems Is More Important Than Establishing Goals
Systems are scalable and repeatable. While setting goals is important, if you aren't creating a process to continuously achieve them, you will fail more often.
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For many of us, we're serial goal-setters. We find it easy to set goals and love to dream big. When it comes to reaching those goals, though, that's another matter.
The problem isn't your goal-setting ability. Instead, our inability to reach those goals often comes down to our modus operandi, our system for reaching them.
What do I mean by system? Think of it as your plan of action, the route you're going to follow, a set of steps you take daily. It's the "how" of reaching your goal and obtaining the results that you want.
Now, it's not that you shouldn't set goals. Goals are important too. After all, they're the direction you want to head and can help you stay in the right lane. But it's important to think of your goals as a helpful guiding North Star. Your target, if you will. While the system that you end up implementing is the bow and arrow; and how you'll end up hitting that bullseye.
By creating systems and establishing good habits today, you'll be closer to achieving your goals and will also set yourself up for long-term success. With this in mind, here's a look at why implementing systems is more important than goal-setting alone.
It sets you up for continuous improvement
With a good system, you'll be setting yourself up for continuous improvement.
How? Because performing a set of daily habits allows you to actually make progress, not just think about that progress like you do when goal-setting. It's also sustainable, and you can continuously revisit your system if needed – tweaking, improving, or creating new habits to give you the outcomes you want.
As Steven Handel, author and self-improvement coach of The Emotion Machine, explains, "Systems are different from goals because they are focused on sustainability. Systems don't require a specific benchmark that we reach or don't reach. They are an approach to life that we practice and build on daily."
Your goal might be to build a thriving business, but your systems are how you will actually do this. It's the procedures on how you create products, hire employees, and keep accounts. These are the small method adjustments that will allow you to scale.
This is why systems are so crucial and better than goal-setting alone. If you achieve your goal, say, launching and scaling a successful business, but then you forget how you got there, then the goal is not scalable. Instead, it's better to systematize your approach so that if you do fail, you can quickly run a post-mortem to see where you went wrong. This way, you'll know what not to do in the future. And when you do win, you'll have a documented system on how to achieve it again and do better the next time.
You can rally your team around the plan
Big-picture goals are great, but it can be hard to get your team excited about them. On the other hand, with systems, you can show your team your blueprint for your company and get them on board with you.
If you can, get your team involved in creating the systems with you. Brainstorm together and show them that having a step-by-step guide on completing tasks will make life easier. It creates efficiency because they will know what to do, how to do it, and when.
And as your business grows and hires new employees, it will be easy for them to pick up the knowledge and procedures you already have in place.
It allows for creative input
"I will reach $200,000 in revenue this year." That's a great goal, but what does it actually mean, and how is it actionable? It's what you will be doing that counts.
Think creatively about implementing new systems. Even if there is a one percent change in how you do things, the accumulation of all these small changes will make a difference.
Just take a look at the British cycling team – they made small creative changes, like switching to a more comfortable saddle, but the accumulation of all the changes paid off in a big way (spoiler alert: they have six Tour de France victories).
It creates a long-term mindset
You've trained hard and run your marathon. But now what? You've achieved your goal, so what is there motivating you to maintain good running habits?
Focusing on a system allows you to continue doing well after a goal has been achieved because it's not about a singular achievement.
It's the commitment to the process, and once a good habit is created and maintained, you'll see how it's benefiting your company. You'll have the incentive to keep doing it because you keep seeing the rewards. This is the long-term mindset that you want.
"The purpose of setting goals is to win the game," says James Clear, best-selling author of a number of books, including Atomic Habits. "The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game…true long-term thinking is goal-less thinking." That's revolutionary!
It keeps you grounded
Finally, a system keeps you action-oriented because you see the progress being made. It's tangible and gives more satisfaction and long-term happiness.
If you base your happiness on achieving a goal, you're saying to yourself, "IF I reach my goal, only THEN can I be happy."
But here's the thing, why not permit yourself to be happy and grounded all the time?
By putting a system in place, the goal is now the outcome of all the actionable procedures you've done. You'll also shift from a mindset of failure to one where you're pleased to see your systems running well, and as a result, your big-picture goals being met.
And this is what will motivate you and drive you to continual success long-term, both in your personal life and your business.