Life coaches are crazy-obsessed big goal-setters. Coaching is largely about beginning with the end in mind (a goal) and creating an action plan to get there, wherever “there” is. I personally reset my goals every 6 months. They are pinned to my vision board as a daily reminder of the steps I need to take to get stuff done.
But a goal alone isn’t enough for success. You also need a system to get you there. Because systems work—they provide clarity and keep you on track.
In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, best-selling author Scott Adams explains: “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 achieves 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 someday in the future, it’s a goal.”
Why the differentiation? Because systems make winning likely. It’s the system that matters, not the rare moments of ticking a box that was a goal. A system is set of steps to help you achieve your goal, not just dream and talk about it.
For example, let’s say your goal is to find a job. Your system might look like this:
- Research career websites every day.
- Have a networking coffee with someone new every week.
- Allocate an hour per morning to do some fresh outreach.
- Consistently polish your LinkedIn profile and resume.
A system makes your goal real. It’s concrete. It gets you moving. When you put your system into action, you’ll be very likely to reach your goal, because you have a map to get there.
The system is all you have to worry about to summit whatever mountain you are climbing.
Here’s an example of one of my systems in action: When I started my side hustle, my goal was to get five coaching clients. One way to attract new clients was to start blogging life advice, hoping that the right people would find me. To do that, I decided to publish one fresh blog post each week on a topic I felt mattered.
My system to do that was to write every. single. morning. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Just for 15 minutes if that’s all the time I had. Some of my writing does nothing—it tanks and attracts no readers at all! But I always write every day. It’s not “I’ll do it when I feel like it.” It’s “I’ll do it today.” Because it’s my system. Morning time is writing time. (It’s morning right now, and so I’m writing this column.)
Following my system ultimately got me featured in my dream publications and eventually even resulted in my first book being published. I scored my goal and then some through that process, because, unlike goals, systems never end (they also take away the guesswork).
What goal do you currently have that you could replace with a system? Could you replace:
- Looking for a relationship with going on two new dates per week?
- A goal of losing 5 pounds with cutting out soda from your diet?
- Your revenue goal for your business with spending 20 minutes per day on marketing?
- Your desire for a deeper spiritual practice with a 15-minute morning meditation?
- A goal of spending more quality time with your spouse with all screens off during dinnertime?
- Your desire for work-life balance with a massage every month and no email-checking after 7 or 8 p.m.?
Systems reduce decision fatigue; they provide you with an inner guidance system and a equip you with the power of habit. What system can you start this week?