7 Ways To Transform Your Goals Into Rock-Solid Systems

7 Ways To Transform Your Goals Into Rock-Solid Systems

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Daniel Craig James Bond 007 Skyfall

You’ve been there.

Maybe you have unfinished novels scattered across your hard drive, or haven’t picked up your guitar in weeks, or have stopped practicing that new language you so desperately wanted to learn.

Goals are easy to conceptualize. It’s easy to convince yourself that this time it’s different.

But it still doesn’t work.

Why is it so hard to actually achieve the goals we set for ourselves? Why do so many of us fail?

Here’s a hint—it’s not about your level of commitment. That’s irrelevant.

When we set goals, we too often plunge head first into the deep end with our eyes on one thing only — the achievement itself.

This, my friend, is why you fail.

You’re approaching your goals the wrong way. Not only that, you’re choosing the wrong kinds of goals to begin with.

Here are 7 ways to transform your goals into rock solid systems.

 

1. Adopt a systems mindset

Focusing only on the achievement of your goal doesn’t give you the best chance of success.

Scott Adams, in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, said that achievement-oriented people “exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out.” What he means is that end-state thinking creates a division between progress and achievement.

In other words, if you aren’t winning, you’re failing.

A system is defined as “an organized, purposeful structure that consists of interrelated and interdependent elements.” A systems mindset shifts your thinking away from the end-state and lets you focus on your progress.

To skyrocket your chances of success, you have to be systems-oriented. And you must start with the right kinds of goals.

 

2. Get big with your goals! Forget being S.M.A.R.T.

Successful companies set long-term strategic goals, called BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals). Consider these classic examples:

• “Crush Adidas.” (Nike, 1960’s)

• “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” (Amazon)

• “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” (JFK, 1961)

BHAGs are clear, compelling, represent a vision, and inspire tremendous effort.

My favorite example of a personal BHAG comes from Arnold Schwarzenegger before he was famous. When asked what he was going to do after his bodybuilding career was over, he said, “I’m going to be the number-one box office star in Hollywood.” How’s that for big?

S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, and Time-bound) don’t inspire us the way BHAGs do. They are limiting and are often boring.

We need to allow more room in our lives for those BHAGs that excite us, that stimulate our success triggers and enable us to think more creatively about our futures.

When setting your goals, go big. Think BHAG.

 

3. Get strategic, and layer in your tactics

Strategy gives us the how behind an idea. It propels us forward and guides us where we need to go.

Strategic goals help us achieve our BHAGs because they drive everything we do.

Consider the BHAG, “To live a life of abundance, free of financial burden.” What could be one strategic goal that aligns with this BHAG? How about “make an extra $1000 a month?” Setting this strategic objective could help you achieve your vision of living abundantly.

Tactics, then, comprise the what behind our strategy. Tactics are the specific actions we take based on our strategic objectives.

In the example above, you could brainstorm specific actions to make an extra $1,000 a month — work overtime three days a week, sell one freelance article a week, or shop garage sales on weekends and sell items on eBay for a profit.

The tactics you implement support your strategic goals, which in turn align with and push you toward your BHAGs.

Break these tactics down even further into actionable components that can become habits. For your tactic of selling an article a week, start with a simple action to “write 200 words every day.” Pretty soon, this becomes a habit, and you’ve built a set of behaviors that link your habits to your tactics, your tactics to your strategy, and your strategy to your BHAG.

You’ve taken the initial steps to create a rock-solid system!

But we’re not done yet.

 

Goals Dreams

 

4. Set milestones and celebrate them

Rock-solid systems must contain benchmarks to gauge their effectiveness. How else will you know if your systems are working?

These could be time-bound, such as 30 days in, 90 days in, etc. Or they could be results driven, with intervals set at certain waypoints (5 pounds lost, 10 pounds lost, $100 extra per month, etc.).

How you set your milestones is far less important than the fact that you set them to begin with. We must be able to measure ourselves against the progress we expect to achieve.

And when you reach a milestone, the first thing you should do is celebrate! Don’t let small wins pass you by.

Every gain, no matter how incremental, is movement in the right direction. I can’t emphasize this point enough. If you don’t make the effort to cheer for yourself, then I would question whether or not you’ve set the right goal or have a clear vision.

 

5. Assess your progress and don’t be afraid to pivot.

If your system isn’t working, whether you scrap it or tweak it is up to you. If the probability of reaching your next milestone is low, you might need to make some significant adjustments.

Perfectly fine.

One of the beautiful things about systems is that they’re flexible. If something isn’t working, try a different approach.

Entrepreneurs do this quite well. It’s commonplace to hear of serial entrepreneurs who failed miserably time and again until they implemented the right system.

This is another reason why I love BHAGs. They help me keep my eye on the prize and worry less about the small stuff.

 

6. Get an accountability partner (or team) and solicit feedback.

One pair of hands alone can’t build rock-solid systems. Sometimes we just need someone to push us.

If you work alone, you know how easy it is to anchor yourself on one concept or idea.

We create more value when we’re able to share our thoughts and ideas with others.

An accountability partner or team can be like your own personal board of directors. They have your best interests at heart, and if you have a great partner, they won’t hesitate to tell you when something is broken.

So outline your system for a trusted friend or mentor and ask, “What do you think?” And check in with them on a regular basis.

I guarantee you’ll get better results.

 

7. Focus on the journey

With systems-oriented thinking, you will not have immediate gratification. And that’s okay. Working towards BHAGs are about pushing yourself, immersing yourself in your values and working toward your envisioned future.

Systems force you to focus on your journey and help you build habits that align with your goals. And once you’ve built those systems, you will never worry about achieving your goal—because you will!

The system won’t allow you to fail.

You now have a framework for building rock-solid systems, but the rest is up to you. It isn’t enough to just read these steps, nod your head in agreement and move onto another topic.

It’s true – setting goals and implementing rock-solid systems is a lot of work. But the payoffs are worth ten times that effort.

Achieving your goals feels great. Building systems that take you beyond your goals feels even better.

Rock-solid systems are life changing. If you’re willing to put in the hours, you’ll become a goal-getting machine.

When will you start?

 

What techniques have you found effective in helping you hit your big goals? Share them in the comments field below.

 

Feature Image: Daniel Craig – Skyfall

Scott L. Sind is on a mission is to help burned-out employees and business owners build a life that enables them to do meaningful, rewarding work they truly love. He's the author of ActivateThought.com, where he writes about leadership, success, creativity, and professional development. Get his free Cheat Sheet for Building a Powerful Support Network for quick tips on expanding your influence.

36 COMMENTS

  1. Just an awesome article….ds could bring a gud adrenaline rush wen we go through da article…definitely ds would help me in achieving my goals…thnx a lot scott for a wonderful article…

  2. I make a list of things to do once or twice a week. As the tasks get completed, I put a check mark on them. Some goals are small some are bigger, none the less each small task helps me get closer to succeed.

  3. I love the concept of “audacious goals” because if you’re going to pursue a goal at all, why attempt it timidly or with reservations? That’s like driving your car with the emergency brake on. By going after an audacious goal, you’re declaring to yourself and the world that you deserve the best and you have what it takes to make it happen! That helps create the momentum, resourcefulness, and energy to propel yourself to the finish line.

    • Appreciate the comment Joel! I love the image of driving with the emergency brake on—it’s a perfect metaphor for the feeling of underachievement. I may steal that one if you don’t mind 🙂

      • I’m more than happy to share my “emergency brake” metaphor with you! (If only I had originated it.) But getting back to the idea of audaciousness and BHAGs, I recently read a quote by 19th century author Christian Nevell Bovee that ties in nicely with your blog post. He said, “The method of the enterprising is to plan with audacity and execute with vigor.” That message is just as meaningful today as it was over 100 years ago, and it focuses on two of the most important ingredients of success: planning to succeed and following through with passion and positive expectation. It’s an inspiring idea to keep in mind as we start the new year.

        • That’s a beautiul quote. I can’t help but wonder if it may have been Jim Collins’ inspiration for the term BHAG.

          Thanks for sharing and happy new year!

  4. Great article Mr. Sind, this will help me a lot to achieve what I really want.

    thank you so much for sharing it.

    From El Salvador

    Alexis Morales

  5. Nice work Scott! I hate to admit it, but I can now see why I haven’t accomplished everything that I’ve intended to do. I plan on using your strategies above as a playbook for future goal-setting.

    Thanks,
    Rich

    • Rich – I had my a-ha moment a few years ago when I did a self-analysis of all the goals I hadn’t reached. Systems became my way of giving myself the best opportunitiy to succeed. I’m sure it will work for you.

      Let me know how it goes!

      Scott

  6. I have a few systems like this for making progress on goals. I make a gridded spreadsheet with the activities and either the phases of the project across the top or the days. One is how I track getting bigger tasks done that really matter and the other is keeping track of the small daily habits that help me improve, like writing 200 words, except for an actor it’s observe, practice, and analyze.

  7. I love the BHAG system. When I started my novel I didn’t just set a goal of writing a novel. I set my goal to writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

    I like to combine goals. I set a goal to walk an hour each day and to learn Spanish. I listen to Spanish MP3s while walking. The kicker is I am not allowed to have any coffee until this daily goal is completed. For me, that’s a powerful incentive. It makes the morning cuppa taste all the more refreshing.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks Paul—it sounds like you’ve built some solid systems there.

      And I love the idea of learning a language that way! Brilliant – I’d never thought of that.

      Scott

  8. Hi Scot,
    Just a quick thank you for advice that has hit home! Not only food for thought but the sort of encouragement I need to take action. Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of your contributions.

  9. Scott,

    First of all, you had me with that image of Daniel Craig 😉 Second, this is a great article. Personally, I dislike SMART goals. In my life, I’m going BIG and Audacious. NYT Best Seller sounds big and bold!

  10. hey Scott you have really hit the home with all these mind- flushing points. One thing that I would point here is that when we just focus upon our goal we miss the most crucial points to follow along the way and that make a big difference in achievers and loosers.

  11. I do agree with all the ideas you have offered to your post.
    They’re really convincing and can definitely work.
    Nonetheless, thhe poss are too quick for beginners.
    Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time?
    Thaanks ffor thee post.

  12. As a recovering perfectionist, the most important points in your list are the “milestones/celebration” and the “focus on the journey” ones. You’re absolutely right about building systems, Scott–and I’m finally, FINALLY beginning to take that knowledge out of the theoretical realm into action. Every time I take even the smallest step, it feels fantastic–not just because I’ve moved a tiny bit closer to my goal, but because I restore a tiny bit of faith in myself that I’m a person who TAKES action and doesn’t just think about it. So I’d add “develop a feeling of personal empowerment” to the list of benefits your systems approach can bring. 🙂

    • Thanks Michelle. You hit the nail on the head: building systems helps you feel like you’re constantly progressing. And with each step, your faith grows. Personal empowerment is a powerful benefit that really is at the core of the system-building process. I appreciate your comments!

      Scott

  13. Hi Scott, this is a handy article for those of use who veer more into the right brain category. I most definitely need handy tips to keep me on track. Great job. 🙂

  14. This is great! One of my “besetting sins” has been focusing on achievement and it tends to lead to discouragement. What you’ve outlined here is helping me to make a mental shift so that I am more strategic about my goals.

    Thanks for the tips and encouragement!

  15. All good ideas Scott. Here’s an additional thought. I like to set goals that are imbued with strong emotions and are connected to my deepest values. For example, let’s say your goal is to, “Increase my personal income by 25% for the year.” Okay, tell me where the emotion is behind that goal. Tell me how increasing your income by 25% is tied to a strong value. Many people simply set goals because they know that is what they are supposed to do but they give little thought to the meaning behind achieving those goals. Here is a better way to state that goal—“Increase my personal income by 25% so I can add $25,000 to my children’s college education fund.” Now you have emotions and values tied into your goal and the likelihood of achieving that goal just rose dramatically.

    • Thanks Steve! I totally agree with you about tying personal emotions to your larger goals. This is exactly what I mean when I say we need to make room for BHAG’s that excite us and motivate us. Lackluster goals result in lackluster performance. Goals that resonate with our values are much stronger. Appreciate the comment!

      Scott

  16. I’m definitely for systems. And BHAGs, even though this is the first time I’m hearing of such an acronym, haha. While I wouldn’t say S.M.A.R.T. goals suck, it just doesn’t work for me. BHAGs are indeed more compelling.

    Great article!

    • Thanks Jeremy! Indeed, SMART goals have their place, but without an overarching vision they’re not very meaningful. Good luck with your goals!

      Scott

      • First off, great article Scott. Thanks. Secondly I like to think of BHAGs and SMART goals in terms of a ladder or a staircase. Your BHAG is at the top and each rung or step is a SMART goal that you need to achieve on your way to achieving your BHAG. The difficulty many people have is the fact that there are multiple, if not endless, ways to reach your BHAG. Success is never a straight line like a ladder or a staircase. But I think the analogy still works because each achievement is a step towards your BHAG. Focus on achieving the next step while never losing sight of your ultimate goal.

        • Thanks Blake. You’re right that success is never a straight line. I like to think of a goal system as three dimensional in that you may have multiple strategic goals branching off from your BHAG. The ladder analogy is a great way to visualize how tactics link to strategic goals and ultimately your BHAG.

          Appreciate the comment!

          Scott

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