As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits writes, “Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.” He makes a distinction between goals and systems: “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”
The word “goal” can be very off-putting and even intimidating for some people. In our coaching work together I use the word “purpose” to help people feel that it is an unfolding and evolving process that we’re constantly learning more about and may shift not as expected.
The systems then are the intentions and practices you put into play to help you reach your goal or purpose – whichever term feels better for you.
We can set goals all day long, but what are the actions we’ll take to get there? What will you do differently than you did before to help you reach your goal?
These are the small, little actions that you are intentional about that lead you to your goal. You may discover along the way that your goal may change or shift from what you initially set.
When we focus on the system of smaller intentional actions, we may also see other benefits come as a result. Not to mention, when we focused so intently on the goal, we become blind to other things that may be needing our attention along the way.
Being rigidly focused on a goal also brings up issues with inner critics that can totally derail your progress and even prevent you from moving forward at all. Instead, when we focus on intentional actions in our system we give ourselves more room to make adjustments as we learn and grow. The system you build is experimental and you can learn from mistakes along the way so self-forgiveness is important. There is a lot of opportunity for building your self-awareness and personal discovery in this process.
It is important to come back to the goal you set to check progress, see if it’s still relevant, and remind yourself what you’re working towards. Have you ever noticed in the past when you were working so hard towards a goal and achieved it, it was exciting for a short time, but the journey of getting there had the biggest significance? That’s the focus on building that system.
One final quote by James Clear who sums it up, “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.” So once you accomplish your goal is that the be-all and end-all or do you want to continue the momentum?
When we set a goal it can seem so daunting at times as we work on it, by focusing on the day-to-day actions you take to get there in the system you build, that’s where the adjustments can be tweaked and it feels much more attainable. So have fun and enjoy the ride!
My blog post, Make it a Habit, can help you see how habit loops can help you build your system to achieve the goals you set.
So, what goals do you have that you can build a system to work towards? Share your ideas to make your declaration and inspire others!