Goals are only for losers
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, says so. He attributes his success to a different approach to goal setting.
Adams created a system that allowed him to create in public and gauge the reactions of the public early in his career. Adams’ creations include comic strips, businesses, and different writing styles.
How To Fail at Almost Everything but Still Win Big: A Kind of the Story of My Live, he said, “By being system-oriented, I felt that I was growing more capable each day, regardless of the fate of any project I was working on.”
The Problem with Goals
Goals will give you something to strive for, but they are temporary.
If the goal is difficult, it can be stressful to work on it and not see any progress. Changes in circumstances can also make it difficult to control the outcome of a goal.
An executive might set the goal to become a manager in a company, but the company will have to reorganize itself because of financial cuts and reduce the number managerial positions.
This makes it impossible for executives to achieve the desired goal, at least not in the medium and short-term.
People who are goal-oriented live in constant pre-success and failure, at best, and permanent failure if they never succeed. People who are systems people achieve success every time they use their systems. This is because they did what was expected.
What a System Looks Like
Systems are similar to habits, in that they represent what you do every day. They are the expression of your vision, values, and beliefs.
A runner may set the ambitious goal to run a marathon in three hours. He could also create a training program where he trains at certain times each week and logs the results.
A coach might also set a goal to find 10 new clients by the end the month. If she doesn’t find any leads by the end of the month, it will be a disaster.
She could, on the other hand, create a system in which she dedicates an hour per day to sales calls, sending relevant email to her email list, and working on her coaching program.
How to Create Your First System
To create a system, you don’t have to be a psychologist. Instead, track your outputs and activities to see what is working and what isn’t.
Spreadsheets are great for organizing systems. Let’s take, for example, the goal to publish a nonfiction book this year. To track how often and what you write, and the status of each chapter in your book, you will need a system.
You can create a spreadsheet that tracks these metrics in each column. A column could be added to your spreadsheet that contains notes about your progress. This will allow you to refine your system over time.
Similar to the coach, our runner could keep track of his or her daily runs by keeping a log.
Test Your System
David Allen, author of Get Things Done, recommends holding a weekly review. He wrote:
The Weekly Review is what you need to clear your head. It’s going through the five phases of workflow management–collecting, processing, organizing, and reviewing all your outstanding involvements–until you can honestly say, ‘I absolutely know right now everything I’m not doing but could be doing if I decided to.’
This is a great time to identify what’s working in your system. The coach might choose to reach five clients instead of three each day. Our lazy writer might decide that he will increase his daily word count by 300 to 500 words per day.
You will find that you don’t have to spend as much time tracking your activities. This will allow you to make progress in other areas, such as finances, fitness, or business.
Are Goals for Losers Really Worth It?
You can’t avoid goals when you work in a company.
Instead of abandoning your goals, you can combine them with a system to get the best of both.