Goals are for losers, a system is what you need

January 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

Yesterday I started reading How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big. It’s a book on how to become successful by exposing yourself to failure all the time. The books’s written by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert – the cartoon.

In the book, Adams explains how from a young age he saw “failure as a tool, not an outcome”: kind of like yanking at a slot machine in the casino again and again, until you win the lottery.

I know that the title makes the book sound like a load of self-help crap (and most of it is), but I did like his take on goal-setting:

To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goals is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach that goal – if you reach it at all – feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. That feeling wears on you.

Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.

The system-versus-goals model can be applied to most human endeavors. In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system.

A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it in the future, it’s a goal.

My proposition is that if you study people who succeed, you will see that most of them follow systems, not goals.


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