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I had the pleasure of interviewing James Clear, author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits. He shares the importance of creating a system of habits that makes reaching your goals simple.
Mo asked James:
“How would someone go about developing a goal versus a system?”
"Before I criticize goals, I should first say that they're useful as well. Goals are helpful in setting a sense of direction and defining which direction I'm going to row the boat in. They are also useful as a filtering mechanism.
If you know what your goals are, and somebody comes to you with an opportunity or they come to you and say, “Hey, can you join me on this project?” you can run it through that filter. Does that help me achieve the goal or not? If not, then it's just easier to say no. Goals are useful, however, they come with a few drawbacks, particularly if you are over-focused on the goal rather than the system or the process.
To put a finer point on this, the way I would explain it is: your goal is your desired outcome, but your system is the collection of daily habits that you follow. If there is ever a gap between your system and your goal, and if there is ever a gap between your desired outcome and your daily habits, your daily habits will always win.
Almost by definition, your current habits are perfectly designed to deliver your current results. Whatever results you have right now, it’s a natural by-product of the system, the collection of daily habits you’ve been running for the last three months or six months, or year, or two years.
So, the current system that you have and the current daily habits you have, have carried you to this point. Often we talk about, particularly in business, changing results. Everyone wants to double their revenue or hit this quarterly metric or reach this milestone. It’s very much focused on position or outcome.
Focusing on the system is more about focusing on the trajectory or process rather than the position. Rather than saying how much weight is on the scale right now, it’s much more about the process and the trajectory of, “Am I showing up to workouts, and am I on a good path?” Rather than asking how much money is in the bank account right now, it’s much more of the process of, “Am I making sales calls, and am I showing up and performing?” It’s about building those habits day in and day out.
The key here is that we all so badly want our results to change, but the result is actually not the thing that needs to change. It’s the habits that perceive the result. It’s kind of like how you need to fix the input, and the outputs will fix themselves. Most of your results in life are sort of a lagging measure of the habits that precede them.
Your bank account is a lagging measure of your financial habits and physical fitness is a lagging measure of your eating and training habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your reading and learning habits. Even something as simple as the clutter on your desk at work or your garage or house is even a lagging measure of your cleaning habits. What we need to adjust is the collection of daily habits system and not necessarily the goal…”
Dive deeper into the conversation with James Clear here.
Think about how your systems are aligned with your goals. Are your daily and weekly actions aligned with what you want to accomplish over a year?
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