Systems VS Goal

What you are getting into: 757 words, 5mins read


I am a big believer of focusing on systems more, rather than just focusing on the goal.

Think A+B=C:

A = Your current situation, point A

B = Systems to get there

C = Your goal, point C

Setting SMART goals is such a romanticised notion that almost everyone knows that we should, but seldom people talk about the steps involved to get to the finishing line. Because visualising and achieving the goal gets you that high, while visualising the system makes you miserable because it’s pure hard work.

Imagine that you are a successful entrepreneur with yearly profit of 5 million (or any other successful person you have in mind). You attend a press conference and the reporter fields a standard question: ‘How did you do it? What’s your secret?’ Your answer is the system you used to get there.

Take the classic new year’s resolution example “I want to lose 5KG.” How are they going to do it? “I will run more often.” Let’s put it in perspective.

A = I weight 100KG now

B = “I will run more often”

C = “I want to lose 5KG and weight 95KG”

This raises so many questions. When do they want to achieve the goal? How often will they run? How about their diet? What is the drive behind losing that weight? How much time they can devote out of their busy schedules to run? How committed are they? What about motivation? When things get tough (increased workload, crying baby, quarrels with SO, etc) how are they going to manage? How much slack should they cut themselves when the difficulty level suddenly raises?

All these are logical questions to someone who wants to lose weight, or achieve any goal. It is only beneficial to answer these questions, and by answering them in all honesty, the goal can be changed or the system can be tweaked to allow flexibility.

Now lets look at a logical system with the same goal.

A = I weight 100KG now

B =

  • I will run 3 times a week, for 6 months
    • I will clock 72 runs in 24 weeks
    • I shall schedule runs into my calendar as best as I can and commit to the calendar as best as I can
    • Mileage and duration shall increase for no more than 10% each week to prevent burnout
    • Quantity of runs per week can be tweaked in order to stay in line with workout plan , i.e. 2 runs this week will equate to 4 runs next week
    • I will only weigh myself every 2 weeks (losing weight does not happen overnight, seeing the scale drop by 0.02KG is demoralising, not seeing the scale drop can crush the motivation for the whole week), each time I weight myself I shall do it first thing in the morning wearing the same clothes (to maintain consistency, definitely not weighing myself after a mega dinner — this just set myself up for a soul crushing sleepless night)
    • Cheat meals allowed every alternate week
    • I shall not compare my progress to anyone because we are using different systems and each body has a different reaction to workout plans

C = “I want to lose 5KG and weight 95KG in 6 months

This supplements my argument of focusing more on systems. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure, so you write out realistic systems, while maintaining flexibility for you to fail and get back on track if that happens. Starting point and the end goal are mere fleeting points. Realistically speaking, they are ephemeral, like few seconds. It’s the system that really moves you away from the starting point and gets you to where you want to be.

Once you have clearly laid down the ground rules (aka systems), you get clarity, there’s no guesswork. Because guesswork = opportunity to deviate unconsciously. It’s different from tweaking the system. Tweaking the system is a conscious decision because you know it’s not going to work. For example, 5 weeks in and they need have an overseas project which requires you to be stationed there. While you are there, the location isn’t ideal for runs and there isn’t any gym available. So you have to temporarily suspend your workout plan, consciously making the decision to do so.

Next time you are writing out your goal, try this method. Get clarity on the system you are using by writing it out, and then evaluate if the system is feasible. Test it, experiment, tweak, while maintaining your focus.

That said, remember, eyes on the prize my friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *