Stop Setting Goals. Period.

Stop Setting Goals. Period.

    Yes, it’s that time of the year again. Setbacks and achievements of the previous year have been reviewed. You are now in a revise mode, getting ready to do what you always do at the start of the year: make a New Year resolution. For some, this exercise has partly or wholly worked. For others, however, simply check with them exactly 14 days from now, they would have ditched the resolutions which they enthusiastically signed up for at the beginning of the New Year.New Year Resolution.png

To this class of people, don’t despair or give up. What you need to do is change your language and perspectives around resolutions. Reframe your goals, and use the language of ‘systems.’ What do I mean? Choose projects and habits that even, if they result in “failures” in the eyes of the outside world, give you transferable skills or relationships. In other words, you choose options that allow you to inevitably “succeed” in the long run, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects.

Choose options that allow you to inevitably “succeed” in the long run, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects.

Hence, rather than asking yourself, “What goal do I want to achieve?” reframe this as “What persistent skills or relationships can I develop?” Attainment of the former is a binary pass/fail with no consolation prize, while the latter has a potent snowball effect.

I was one of those people who see blogging as time-consuming, with little pay off (at least initially). This was the case because I used to relate to blogging as a goal and not a system. Typically I’ll set myself a target of, say, a post/day. To my ‘disappointment,’ I realised that writing is a skill that requires a lot of practice. When I had to also consider fulfilling other crucial priorities in life, achieving my blogging goal became increasingly frustrating. Then, I was introduced to the concept of reframing goals as systems. The main points are that:

  1. Goals are best achieved when considered in the context of them occurring within a system. This is more crucial because, as human beings, we battle competing and conflicting drives and desires. For instance, I may aspire to attain lofty academic achievement yet have to work full-time to meet my obligations as a provider for my family. If I blindly focus on my scholastic goal, I may succeed in getting excellent grades in my studies but fail miserably to meet my family commitments. Conceiving goals from a systems perspective, however, allows me to be mindful of the need to achieve a balance between otherwise competing desires. In other words, a realistic option may be to combine work with part-time study. This may help me manage my academic workload more efficiently and effectively.

  2. Rather than concentrate on the achievement of isolated goals, focus on skills development. On the topic of “systems” versus “goals,” Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, in an interview with Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, remarked that the first part of his system (with respect to blogging) involves practising on a regular basis. He noted that this helped him to “move from a place with low odds (being an out-of-practice writer) to a place of good odds (a well-practised writer with high visibility).” The second part of his blogging system is a sort of R&D for writing, which he used to develop several authentic voices and writing styles. In the long run, his posts were noticed, resulting in book publishing deals and other lucrative speaking engagements.

So as you prepare to make that New Year resolution, reframe your goals in the context of systems. Refrain from thinking in terms of binary pass/fail with regards to the achievement of your objectives. Rather focus on working on transferable skills and be open to the opportunities these may bring to you in the new year. So are you ready to make your New Year resolution now?

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