It’s Time to Give Up on Your Goals!

Wait! What? 

Are we suggesting that you give up on your goals?

January is when most people make the decision to do better and set their goals for the year. According to numerous research polls, February is when people give up on their goals. And you know what? We say good for you! You don’t *really* need those goals anyway. 

Actually, goals are a great way to see what is important to you and to give you direction, but setting goals is not going to change your life. There is a much easier, rewarding and successful way to approach change and growth.

In January we talked about how modern-day goal-setting works in opposition to how our brain is wired to achieve results. We also disrupted some of the carrot-and-stick methods we’ve used in the past to motivate ourselves. It turns out reward, not punishment, is how we create habits that lead to results.

This topic is big. It has the power to be transformative, so this month we’re going deeper. 

This hits directly home in our world as we hear from so many clients and friends burned out of wanting to make changes. It’s like a great resignation from goals right now. Not because leaders want status quo, but because of how the setting of goals is making them feel. We know there’s nothing wrong with goals – they give us direction and clarity. Yet, the problem (and irony) is that goals can actually prevent us from achieving results because the goal or result is all we see. The outcome-focus of our culture is keeping us outcome-dry. 

Trajectory matters more than position.

As we overvalue outcome, we see only numbers: on the scales, in our bank account, on our P&Ls, and on our Instagram pages. We lose track of the real difference maker behind the outcome – the system driving it all and the enjoyment of the process. Without the right system, we are set up to fail and without joy, we are very likely to quit. 

“We don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.” 

-James Clear

What if instead we focused on a system of tiny shifts?

A system > A goal.

We all have systems in our lives. A system is a collection of habits we use to help us get something done. We have a system for getting our day started. We have systems for making dinner, working out, getting kids in bed, getting work done. These have become embedded into our lives over time…habits and automated behaviors that get us to a result or an outcome that we want (or maybe some we don’t). Our system is perfectly designed to get us the results we’re getting. Bottom line: it’s your SYSTEM that’s driving your results, not the other way around. 

Building the system – by design or default? 

You have a system whether you like it or not. So let’s make sure the system is designed to drive us toward our goals, not away from them. Here are a few key things to know about setting yourself up for success:

  • Make it simple: Systems should make life easy, not hard. If your goal is to eat at home more, but grocery and meal planning aren’t in the system, you will succumb to a drive-thru or a last minute call for takeout. Planning meals in advance, prepping food for the week, and having the right groceries on hand – this makes it easier for you to put a meal together and meet your goal to eat at home more. 
  • Environment matters:  Who we are around and what is in our environment influences what we do. If we want to read more, but we aren’t around others that want to read and all of our books are dusty on a shelf in a junk room, we are not fostering a system to become a reader. Setting a book out on your living room table or going to the library to just be around people who love books is a way to create something different.
  • Start small. We talked about this in our blog last month – it’s so important to our success to start small. We focus on our goals and the sometimes-overwhelming undertaking it can be to achieve them. We forget the small, everyday actions that ARE the system that will get us there. So break your goals into small bite-sized pieces to create momentum and a system that paves the way to your goal. And don’t forget to reward yourself for all your small successes. 

Need more of a case for starting small, making it easy, and looking for ways to develop a system that works for you? James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, states that if we make 1% changes (translated into a series of 2-minute habits), we’ll be 37% better in a year. That’s a lot of progress in our book. 

The social component of creating change and progress is undeniable. So we want to invite you to join our community of amazing leaders who are also doing the work of creating healthier habits. Think of it as a roundtable discussion about the psychology and emotions of making changes. We know that more than thinking, reading, or feeling something – being part of a discussion where you are seen and heard and experiencing ideas is a powerful way to make this stick.

Join us next month as we continue this conversation!