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.
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.
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
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