The writer and cartoonist Scott Adams talks about a “systems vs. goals” approach to life in his book How To Fail At Everything And Still Win Big. This book talks about how having goals does not work very well for long-term ideas, because once you start to see the goal as unattainable you just don’t have as much drive to get it done.
You will likely fail because you aren’t making your goal, and that becomes discouraging. However if your life is based around good habits, say getting up early in the morning, working hard at the specific task du jour, and working out, you are more likely to succeed.
What’s the difference here? Have you noticed that once you make a New Year’s Resolution, one of three things happens:
- You keep it for a week, then quit
- You keep it for a month or two, then quit
- You never even start it
How many New Year’s Resolutions have you loyally kept? If you’re like most, not very many. If you have been able to keep a lot, good for you! You are certainly different from most people. But a systems based system (for lack of a better term!) uses the power of habits to work in your favor. Goals require you to get emotionally hyped in order to accomplish a task. This will work in the short term, but not in the long term. Consider the follow:
You want to learn how to play the drums. You order a great drum set from Barking Drum, and your goal is to learn how to play the drum line from “Token of Time” by Ensiferum. Here’s the problem: that’s a hard drum line, and it will take you a LONG time to go from zero to playing that drum part. You either need to break it up into small goals (but make sure they’re realistic!) or try a different approach…
You order a drum set online, but this time, you have a different plan. You plan to play drums only 30 minutes, every day, using a tutorial from YouTube. You don’t have a “goal,” you just want to get a little better every day. You make yourself stay with this for a while, and after a bit it simply becomes habit. Now it’s easy! Once it becomes habit as opposed to a complex goal, you’re using your habits to learn something!
Everything in your life can be based on this philosophy. Don’t set out to lose 20 lbs; set out to be healthier by running a mile every day, or 3-4 times a week. The problem with goals is that once you complete the goal, it’s hard to get motivated to find another goal. You tend to take some time off and then never get another goal. With habits you can take a day off, no problem! But since you don’t have any goals except for improving, you never STOP improving! And that’s how you become truly successful.