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Goal-Setting Doesn't Work - Focus on Systems and Habits

How close am I with this story? You have a friend who is constantly watching his or her weight. This friend usually sets targets then goes on the hunt to hit the goal. Your friend tries different diets all the time. He or she tries different workouts. Often times, your friend hits the goal and lost some number of pounds. 

But, it's not long before your friend gains it all back. 

Goals Can Limit You

Goals, although limiting, can give you better odds of a good outcome versus not having a goal. Goals are also good when it comes to short term tasks and games. But by intensely focusing in on one single goal you run the risk of missing out on other opportunities that may have been presented. 

Think about a person whose goal is to get her boss' job. She is so focused on that one goal that she misses out on promotions that were available in different departments of her firm, or at different companies. 

Systems Work Better

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is the one who coined the phrase, "goals are for losers." In his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, he talks about using systems instead of goals. He defines a goal as something you reach and then you're done. A system is something you do on a regular basis that gives you more skills over time, and increases your chances of future success. The exact, ultimate outcome is unknown. 

So even though goals are good for short term tasks, they are awful at lifelong endeavors, like personal health, career success, and personal finance. 

Here are some examples:

  • Losing 20 pounds is a goal; eating healthy is a system. 

  • Going to the gym four times per week is a goal; being active every day is a system. 

  • Going after your boss' job is a goal; continuing to increase your knowledge and skills is a system.


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