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New Year’s Resolutions: Goals or Systems?

Big Think features Adam Alter, author of Irresistible contrasts Goals with Systems.

He argues that systems are better than goals. He says that goals are merely goal posts that you measure progress by and by focusing on the goal, you live in a state of failure until you reach the goal milestone.

He says that it’s systems that are actually the work that gets you to your goal and that focusing on systems is a better psychological approach than focusing on goals.

Take for instance the goal of writing a book. If you only focus on the goal, then every day that your book isn’t done can be a bummer.

He says focusing on a system of writing for an hour every day is a better strategy because it is actually the thing that will produce a written book. Every day your finish your system of writing for one hour, you can have some satisfaction that you have made progress.

You may have a goal of becoming a world champion swimmer for instance. This, of course will take years to achieve. Do you want to face the hard challenges of training every day reminding yourself that you are not currently a world champion? What if you determined the systems necessary for you to become a world champion? You could focus then on the daily achievement of these systems. Of course you would still occasionally evaluate your progress towards your primary goal. By sticking to your systems, you would have daily wins and be in a more positive psychological state.

What are your goals this year, and what kinds of systems will you put in place to achieve them?

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