Systems > Goals

Striving after goals means failing every day until you succeeds. Living a system means succeeding every day, building on the momentum of earlier successes, and living with a more positive sense of self. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, recently wrote:

My problem with goals is that they are limiting. Granted, if you focus on one particular goal, your odds of achieving it are better than if you have no goal. But you also miss out on opportunities that might have been far better than your goal. Systems, however, simply move you from a game with low odds to a game with better odds. With a system you are less likely to miss one opportunity because you were too focused on another. With a system, you are always scanning for any opportunity.

Consistency and reliability are so much more valuable than accomplishing one-off goals, even big ones. That’s why I intend to start focusing on creating positive systems instead of chasing goals. I’m less interested in being the person who finished a marathon that one time than I am in being the person that runs every day, no matter the weather or circumstances—not that I’m a runner. Religiously followed systems will lead to successes with a firmer foundation than periodically accomplishing a goal.

Rather than expecting an overnight success by reaching a goal, focus on consistently doing the small, atomic actions that the person you want to become does every day. Soon enough, the rewards of that kind of effort will become clear.

Pick one goal for all your priorities

Scott Adams shares the one goal he focuses on that serves the multiple priorities in his life.

The way I approach the problem of multiple priorities is by focusing on just one main goal: energy. I make choices that maximize my personal energy because that makes it easier to manage all of the other priorities. Maximizing my personal energy means eating right, exercising, avoiding unnecessary stress, getting enough sleep, and all of the obvious steps. But it also means having something in my life that makes me excited to wake up. When I get my personal energy right, the quality of my work is better, and I can complete it faster. That keeps my career on track. And when all of that is working, and I feel relaxed and energetic, my personal life is better too.

Besides the obvious one (energy) what singular goal could keep competing priorities in order?