James ClearI was recently stimulated by an interesting and insightful article by a blogger called James Clear, it was entitled ‘If You Completely Ignored Your Goals and Focused on This One Thing Would You Get Better Results?’ It is worth a read and it got me thinking

I have always been a big advocate that there are 2 broadly distinct groups of folk – those that plan where they want to get to and those that realise that they have arrived when they get there.  Now, as a member of the former camp, I would argue that the logical perspective would suggest that if you want to be efficient and effective then be really clear where you want to get to. Set targets, goals and objectives, make a plan to achieve them, then start delivering against that plan!  Those that argue the opposite would say that being efficient and effective does not necessitate getting the greatest quality and that the journey is way more important than the destination, so many variables exist that you should go with the flow!  I wonder where you sit?

I confess to having a set of Life Goals – I did at one stage have 3 year and 5 year goals too, but they appear to have fallen by the wayside.  With the recent trip up Kilimanjaro I ticked one of the life goals off the list, it soon got replaced by others, travelling through Africa in my Landrover being among them. Now the tenet of James’s article is that – if you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?  In this argument he defines system as the process whilst the goal is the outcome.

Mmmmm so if I had not set myself the goal of climbing Kili or playing in a band – would I have learned the saxophone or stood onJazz the peak of Uhuru in a blizzard!  I think on reflection I probably would!  Learning to play the saxophone, like so many of my ‘new fads’ was about challenging myself to grow, develop and stretch – this is about living a system / approach / process.  The fact that I ended up in a Jazz ensemble was a result of that system rather than the goal itself?  Climbing Kili came at a time when I was pushing the idea that I should be the best that I want to be (#btbtywtb) – I was trying to live in a certain way and the goal, albeit set at a very young age, became the by-product of that thought process / approach.

My conclusion is that you need both, James talks about goals being good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.  I would build on that and suggest that goals are good for defining progress and systems for enabling progress.  So, if you are looking to achieve something, become something, deliver something, or create something then can I suggest the following steps.

  • Create a framework for success – don’t constrain or disillusion yourself with a specific time, date, size, shape, amount or distance; define a wide set of success factors.
  • Surround yourself with, or at least create opportunities to be, positively impacted by people that share in ‘your system’.
  • Celebrate success as you make it and recognise achievements retrospectively when you have made them – this creates confidence and a sense of great progress.
  • Try and link other elements of your life to your ‘system’ thus reinforcing the focus and direction of travel.  If you aspire to be a better leader at work, how can you embrace development as a father/mother or partner too.

Onwards and upwards!!