I’ve never liked setting goals.
Which may seem odd, considering my background.
I’ve built businesses. I volunteered my evenings for 6 years. I completely changed my life and became a single foster carer to three kids.
I’m not exactly lacking any motivation.
Yet the mere mention of setting a goal makes me anxious.
If there’s talk of making a goal SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) I develop the urge to punch someone. An urge I’ve mostly been able to resist.
I’m not alone.
Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert comic strip) believes in building systems, not goals:
“Losers have goals. Winners have systems.”
Each morning, when I wake up, I could say that I want to save money. I could say it every morning for the next 10 years. It wouldn’t change a thing.
Setting up a system, to transfer just 50p every day, would work. 10 years from now, I would have money saved up (£1,825 to be precise).
A goal is closer to a wish. A system is closer to an automation.
But not everything can be automated. And that’s where systems continue to win.
By setting up a system we’re changing the world we live in. Despite what we think, our environment plays a bigger role in our behaviour than most other factors, as James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) explains:
“You may think that you control most of your choices, but the truth is that a large portion of your actions every day are simply a response to the environment design around you.”
Optimists set goals. Realists build better systems and environments.