What exactly does James Clear mean by, “You Do Not Rise to the Level of Your Goals. You Fall to the Level of Your Systems?”
Have you been attempting to achieve goals, and failing because setting goals don’t materialize into success?
I’ve written several blogs about the value of Pearson’s Law, "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."
To achieve your Goals/Priorities you need to measure the right things.
What are the Right Things?
In An Index Card – Execution Discipline I shared how I turned around my performance as a radio sales manager, and increased the performance of my sales team, by focusing on the system, rather than focusing on goals.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear shares, “If you want better results, then forget about setting goals. Focus on your system instead. What do I mean by this? Are goals completely useless? Of course not. Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”
Clear outlines 4 issues with setting goals
- Problem #1: Winners and losers have the same goals.
- Problem #2: Achieving a goal is only a momentary change.
- Problem #3: Goals restrict your happiness.
- Problem #4: Goals are at odds with long-term progress.
Clear continues, “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long-term thinking is goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.”
When I had ALM (cancer) in 2012, my goal was to expunge cancer from my body. While this was my goal, my efforts were focused on the systems to achieve my goal. As you can see by my dashboard, I created, the goal was identified, what I measured were the activities (system) to achieve the goal:
- Successfully get cancer in remission and recover with a bone marrow transplant. (Goal)
- Meditate1+ daily on what I want (system)
- Take action other options for recovery/treatment (Vitamin C, etc.) (system – daily research)
- Keep a positive attitude – Stockdale Paradox (System – Positive Affirmations)
What makes Michael Phelps, and Michael Jordan better, as premier performers, is not their goals, but the activities/systems they perform daily, weekly, monthly, to achieve their goals, to perform better. Their system of training makes them superior.
The goal in any sport (or in business) is to finish with the best score. Yet no one spends the entire game staring at the scoreboard. As Clear notes, “The only way to actually win is to get better each day. In the words of three-time Super Bowl winner Bill Walsh, “The score takes care of itself.”’
Set your direction (goal) then make your plan for the system or set of activities you need to do, day in day out, incrementally improving to achieve your goal. Make the focus to achieve your goal, not the goal itself. Focus on the set of activities/systems you need to train yourself to meet the goal.
In Goals Are Overrated: How to Build Systematic Habits - Clear explains how focusing on the goal is detrimental, and how simplifying your goal into systems/activities, and repetitions (2:46) are key to achieving your goals.
If your business has struggled to reach your annual and quarterly priorities, this method of breaking your goals/priorities into the system or activities you need to attain works. In 3HAG Way coaching creating swimlanes focuses on activities to achieve your goals. Dashboards are another way to focus on the how, yet only if you’ve identified the systems, activities, or repetitions required to achieve them.
Watch Clear Explain Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. At 3 minutes, he shares how this helps psychologically to see progress and keep working toward success.
Get your team focused on the system and you’ll discover your success rate on achieving your Quarterly and Annual Priorities improves dramatically!
To create an environment where everyone is inspired to give their best, contact Positioning Systems today to schedule a free exploratory meeting.
Growth demands Strategic Discipline.
Building an enduring great organization requires disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action, superior results, producing a distinctive impact in the world.
Discipline sustains momentum, over a long period of time, laying the foundations for lasting endurance.
Meeting Rhythms achieve a disciplined focus on performance metrics to drive growth.
Let Positioning Systems help your business achieve these outcomes on the Four most Important Decisions your business faces:
Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $250M+) business Scale-UP. We align your business to focus on Your One Thing! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.
NEXT BLOG – Reflection & Review - Mastery
Habits + Deliberate Practice = Mastery. Perhaps you’ve felt this for yourself. You’re doing very well, exceeding, even crushing your goals, and suddenly for almost no apparent reason, you lose it. James Clear shares the story of Pat Riley’s 1985-86 LA Lakers despite having the best record in the NBA failing to win a Championship. When things feel automatic and you become comfortable, you must avoid slipping into complacency. The solution? Establish a system for reflection and review.