She said whaaaat?!
I know. If you’ve ever read any other line of text on my site you’re probably thinking I was hacked and this post was written by a scammer who is trying to burn my brand to the ground. Well, you can rest easy knowing that it is indeed me, Erin, responsible for these key strokes and I, the New Years Resolution setting, goals-obsessed over-achiever, am going to explain why I think our goals don’t matter as much as we tend to think they do.
You see, it’s not that the goals are the problem. Properly ordered in our lives, goals are a beautiful, and even necessary thing. They help us to think bigger, work harder, and strive for more out of ourselves and our lives – they help us to shirk complacency in pursuit of something that will stretch us and help us to grow. So, what’s the problem? The answer is pretty simple – once we reach our goal, then what? And what if we do the work and still don’t reach it? Or what if in doing the work, we realize the goal isn’t actually what we’re working toward at all? Goals are only powerful in so far as they help us to adjust, and sometimes rebuild, the systems in our lives. Meaning, it’s the system that impacts the change, not the goal.
Let me explain. If you set a goal to save $5,000, something in your current life will have to change in order for you to reach that goal. You’ll either need to make more money or spend less (or both) in order for the status quo of your bank account to meet the goal you’ve set for yourself. Simply wanting to have $5,000 saved isn’t enough because, I’m told, money doesn’t grow on trees. The goal in itself isn’t enough. In setting out to achieve your goal, you have to change your system of money management in order to meet your desired result.
To further articulate, let’s say the goal of a soccer team is to win a national championship. The team practices for months – they study the game, repeat drills, and condition their minds and bodies to play their best and win. When the championship game arrives, they execute exactly as they’ve practiced and play a near perfect game but the other team barely edges them out. Our team walks away without their goal of a win. Is all the training for nothing? Doesn’t the mental and physical improvement still amount to greater value than a single outcome? The reality is, we sometimes forget that for every winner, there has to be a loser. Both teams were at the top of the game, both teams earned the right to compete for the national championship. It’s the journey that makes a winner, not the outcome.
This is where systems matter. Systems are what generate change, goals may simply be the catalyst for it. So, while I don’t discourage big, audacious, scary goals to motivate you to challenge the status quo in your life and to set your sights on something better, I encourage you to focus first and most importantly on the systems in your life. If you’re trying to save money, evaluate how you manage money and your system for making and saving it. If you want learn a new skill, evaluate the structures in your life that encourage you to use and practice that skill and your system for learning it. If you want to become more productive, more healthy, more tidy, etc. start with the systems that generate the outcome you desire.