Do you have a goal that you’ve set for yourself?
Maybe you want to do your skincare regularly or run a half marathon or finally be consistent in the gym. Let me ask you this: have you created a system for how you’re actually going to achieve that goal? If you haven’t, this post is for you. I’ve spent a lot of time studying and working with people who are struggling to achieve their goals. And this — not setting up systems to achieve goals — is one of the main mistakes I see people make.
If you’re looking for more science-based self-help tactics, come back here often because I publish a new post every week.
- Today we’re going to focus on systems. We’ll talk about what a system is, the 3 characteristics of systems, and how to implement systems to achieve goals. So first of all, let’s talk about what the heck a system is.
What is a system to achieve goals?
I want you to imagine that you are going to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (that’s your goal). What do you do first? Do you take the bread out first or do you grab the jelly and peanut butter? When you have all the ingredients in front of you, do you butter the peanut butter side first?
Or do you put the jelly on one side first? When you put the sandwich together, do you cut it crosswise or do you cut it down the middle?
You probably have answers to these questions. Heck, you might even have strong opinions about these questions…because you have a system for creating the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
That brings me to important characteristic number one of a system:
1. A System is a process for us to follow.
Now, you might be able to start to see why this connects so deeply to goal-setting. If you set a goal for yourself — let’s say you want to run a half marathon — but you don’t have a process to follow, a system for getting to that goal, a protocol for what you’re doing on a daily or weekly basis… you’re going to be all talk and no action. You have an idea of where you want to go, but no ability to get there.
To create a system, break your goal into clear step-by-step processes that you can follow on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. So if you have a goal, I want you to write in the comments of this post:
- What Do I Need To Do On A Daily Basis?
- What Do I Need To Do On A Weekly Basis?
- What Do I Need To Do On A Monthly Basis?
Once you answer those questions you’ll have a much better idea of what the system for achieving your goal might look like.
However, before you go any further, let’s talk about characteristic number two of systems, that is:
2. All systems are designed to solve a problem.
Imagine that you’re going on a road trip. You get in the car and probably put the destination into Google Maps. In this metaphor, the destination is your goal. Google Maps looks at the traffic in the area and shows you the quickest route from point A to point B. Let’s say that there’s construction on the highway you normally go on, it might divert you around that construction. In other words, it’s going to anticipate problems and it’s going to solve those problems.
This is the exact same thing that we’re going to use to set up a system to achieve goals. The first thing I want you to do is to ask yourself:
What problems will I encounter on my way to my goal?
I’ll give you an example. Last year, my goal was to become a tidy person. I noticed that late at night when I wanted to clean up the kitchen, my energy was really low. That was a constant obstacle for me. So what I did — and what I want you to do — is:
Make the obstacle part of the plan.
I decided to empty my dishwasher before I started cooking. That way there was less to do later on in the night when I was tired. I took the obstacle of being tired and integrated the solution as part of my system. I changed my approach to achieving my goal of tidiness. So that’s the second thing I want you to think about.
Let’s recap. You’ve:
- identified what the individual steps are to achieve your goal — the process — and used that to create your system
- integrated potential obstacles and their solutions into your system.
The last thing that you’re going to do is you’re going to ask yourself a very key question:
How could this be easy?
Because point number three I want to make about systems is:
3. Systems to achieve goals make things easier on our brains
A great example of this is actually Marie Kondo’s KonMari tidying method. She says that to declutter your house you need to pick up every single object and ask yourself, does this spark joy? If the answer is yes, you keep it. If the answer is no, you ditch it.
This is the epitome of using really simple systems to achieve goals because it helps our brain make decisions that might otherwise be complex and fraught with drama. When you’re building your own system, you can use this same exact tactic of writing out simple questions for yourself.
Client story time: I once worked with a client who wanted to engage in a regular yoga practice, but she dealt with chronic migraines. What we did was create a system. If she had a migraine and yoga was on her schedule, she would ask herself, how bad is my pain on a scale of one to 10? If the pain was from 8 – 10, she would give herself permission to release her yoga habit for that day. If the pain was from 5 – 8, she would do a reduced yoga practice that was more about getting a movement in and hopefully reducing that pain. And if the pain was less than a 5, she would do the normal yoga that she was trying to do.
Having a system for managing that decision made it so much easier for her to take steps forward and achieve that goal.