Are Goals Actually Beneficial?
Goals are mostly recognized and implemented by individuals to hold them accountable and sustain motivation. However, what if I were to tell you that goals aren’t as important as you may think? Upon reading, “Atomic Habits,” I had a paradigm shift towards the role of goal setting. Setting goals can be advantageous, but should not be the main focus. Let me explain and introduce some definitions.
Goals: Set Direction
Systems: Make Progress (Think the process)
Systems > Goals
The question that is asked in the book is, “If you were to ignore your goals and only work on your system, would you still reach your goals?”
Below I am going to go through 4 concepts described in the book as to how problems can arise when thinking about goals. Since I have a health and fitness background, I will utilize examples from that particular industry. However, these concepts can be implemented in all aspects of life.
1. Winners and Losers have the same goals. I think it is safe to assume that most people that workout want to gain muscle and decrease body fat. Additionally, we know that not everyone achieves these results even though they have the same goal. Why is that? The main reason is that the system is different. The daily habits and small changes that are made consistently give the edge to the “winners.” In other words, they embrace and enjoy the process. When the system is wrong, such as: poor eating habits, not enough stress on the body, and inadequate sleep then the goal becomes unattainable. The correct system in place creates a different outcome.
2. Achieving goals is only a momentary change. Let’s say that your lack of hip mobility is creating hip pain. So, you create of goal of increasing mobility to decrease pain. Over the course of putting in the time and effort, you reach your goal and the pain subsides. The goal is achieved and as a result the pain is gone and so is the motivation of taking the extra time in the gym to continue your mobility progress. Over time, your hip pain comes back because you treated the symptom and not the cause. If you change the system and your process, you maintain the result of no hip pain because you change your perspective as to why you are taking the extra time and the benefits that will ensue.
3. Goals restrict happiness. People, consciously or subconsciously, live in the mindset that they will be happy when they reach their goals. For example, if you have a 12-month goal are you going to be unhappy for the entire year? You may not realize it, but you won’t feel satisfied until you reach that specific goal. In addition, goals create an “either/or” situation. When you reach that 12-month mark you either failed or succeeded. Going through the year subconsciously or consciously unhappy and finally reaching your goal only to fail will have a substantial impact on your emotions and overall mindset. How do we fix this? Again, the answer lies within the system. Fall in love with the process and you don’t need permission to be happy. Enjoy each day in the gym and the challenges that are imposed and understand that you are improving little-by-little. Those little improvements turn into big results.
4. Goals are at odds with long-term progress. This can be observed in the gym from the common goal of weight loss. For example, when a novice comes into the gym and eventually hits their desired weight loss goal, they don’t see the importance to continue. Whether this is displayed as decreased intensity, workout days, or motivation it will interfere with the individuals long-term progress. This yo-yo effect creates a situation where people tend to revert to their old ways. Instead, commitment to the process will determine your progress.
Overall, the message is simple. Enjoy the process and don’t get caught up in the goals. Improve yourself as little as 1% each day and create long-term success. Focus on the system and you will reach your goals.
“You do not rise to the level of goals, you fall to the level of systems.”