Many people looking to work on their personal development or self improvement can be attracted to goal setting as a big way to improve their life. Goal setting seems to have this reputation of being one of the best ways to improve your life and achieve success.
Setting goals is definitely a great way to improve your life, however if this is all you are doing then you will likely not be achieving your full potential with the possibility of missing many of these goals. The reason for this is not having the structure to achieve these goals.
Setting goals is highly recommended, having a plan to achieve these goals is the other step (along with taking action) to achieve what you should be achieving. This includes building systems to improve your chances of success.
So while goal setting should be a big part of your planning and improvement, you need to have sufficient framework around these goals and plan your steps to get from where you are currently and to achieving these goals.
Let’s go into more detail why building systems is crucial to achieving your goals.
Why setting goals won’t guarantee success
If you were skippering a ship with only a destination and no plan on how to get there, what would your chances of reaching your destination be if you just started sailing and hoped for the best? Not high.
The same can be said with setting goals yet having no plan in place. You might get lucky (particularly if the goal isn’t too challenging) however if it’s a life changing goal your chances of lucking into success is quite low.
Setting goals and doing nothing with regards to planning, creating systems and routines, etc is like wishing or dreaming for something. Setting challenging yet achievable goals goes hand in hand with quality planning and strong systems, procedures and habits. They all need to be in place to get the best outcome.
As popular personal development author James Clear also writes about habits “Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits.”
Why you need to build strong systems
When taking on a new goal you’ll want to take the easiest path to get there. This doesn’t mean you will be cutting corners, however if there is an easier way to get to your end destination that is the path you’d prefer to take. Setting up systems and habits helps you with this.
It means you don’t have to think about every single task in your day, every single input, every single decision. You focus your time and thinking on the bigger decisions knowing that the smaller ones have been accounted for or taken into account. Habits and goals go hand in hand
Let’s say one of your goals is to get fit or lose weight and part of this goal is to eat healthier. It’s a lot easier to eat a healthy diet when you have already prepared this rather than eating on the fly taking into account your busy day and lifestyle. If you’d set up a nightly routine or a routine where you batch your cooking and food preparation every few days you are much more likely to stay on a healthier eating path than if you did this on the fly.
The more you have going on, the more you need to invest in both strong planning and a robust set of systems all of which will lead to stronger habits. The more work you put in to build these habits and systems, the more chance you will achieve your goals.
Even if you took away the goals aspect of setting up strong systems, adding these to your everyday life can help you become a better version of yourself. Want to be the best parent you can be? Look to have a strong time management plan in place with plenty of family time allocated and activities with your kids. The same with being the best partner you can (both romantic and in business), being a better friend, etc.
Tips to build strong systems
So if building habits and systems is a crucial part of achieving your goals, how do we build these? Break all your large goals down regarding complexity, timeframe, additional information needed, etc.
Ask yourself what is needed from you to achieve your goal in the time you have allocated? Is this undertaking particular training or education, overhauling your diet, getting one on one coaching, learning a new topic, moving to another town or city, increasing income or raising money to fund your new path or will you be undertaking new daily tasks?
Break all of this down and either outline the easiest way you think you can achieve this goal and look to reach out to someone who has achieved something similar or who is an expert in the field and ask them if what you are proposing is realistic or if you have missed anything?
Once you’ve mapped this out, map out how this can fit within your week and also within your budget. Learning a hobby from someone world class in that field may be great however your budget may not allow this to happen. Once this has been sorted, plan out your new timetable and start to build your systems to achieve these goals.
The more challenging the goal (and the more challenging time frame) the more structure you will need to build and recruit to achieve this goal. This will be in the form of planning, time management, training and mentoring, equipment just to name a few.
Make sure you factor in downtime and family time (if applicable) to keep some form of balance in your life rather than going all in on your goals at the detriment to everything else.
Performing regular check ins and move swiftly to redefine goals
While it’s great to add habits and systems to your goal setting, what habits if these aren’t working, how can you tell? What habits if these new habits are detrimental to your new path?
This is where regular check-ins come in. Let’s say one of your big goals is to save $50,000 in a year. Let’s assume that this goal will be taking you significantly out of your comfort zone and will require a lot of work and discipline on your behalf.
You’ve reviewed your budget and highlighted the areas you can cut back on, ways you can earn a little extra money and with a bit of luck should achieve this savings goal.
You’ve also built systems around these goals such as automating your personal finances, having most of your larger regular expenses paid via direct debit and all monthly surplus swept into a higher yielding savings account and have also reviewed all your longer term expenses and managed to negotiate better terms and some savings with these.
After doing all this week let’s say after 3 months you have only saved $5,000 in spite of all your hard work and planning? You’ve assessed all your systems, planning and have determined that your goal was too much for you to achieve and some of your assumptions didn’t quite work.
Make the changes to your systems and if that isn’t going to sort out your lack of progress then it’s time to review your goal and the time frame you have selected to achieve this goal.
The important lesson is to keep swinging for the fences, putting detailed plans, systems and procedures in places and take action. If after a short period of time it’s evident you won’t achieve what you set out to do, make any necessary adjustments to these goals and time frames then go out and achieve.
While goals are an important part of the self improvement journey, they need to be accompanied by strong support systems and planning to get the most out of your attempts. Having these strong systems and procedures running alongside your goals means you are getting the biggest bang for your buck and giving yourself the best chance for success and becoming the best version of yourself.
Making sure that the goals you have chosen are aligned to you (or at least who you want to be) on a deeper level will help the process. You are much more inclined to buy into something you have a deep belief or sense of alignment with rather than achieving something for someone else or someone else’s goal. Focus on living the life you want and being this best version of yourself.