Perhaps you should give up on your goals?
Scott Adams, creator of office comic Dilbert, explains why goals suck better than anyone I’ve come across:
“… you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.”
James Clear has written about this as well. James explains how setting goals reinforces our loser mindset:
“When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, ‘I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal’.”
You might think that is worth the pay-off of reaching your goal, but consider what happens as soon as you reach the ‘end’: you immediately lose the motivation and direction that goal gave you and so to fill that gap you start a new goal and the cycle starts all over.
A system is a process you follow. It’s repeatable, and it leads to the same (or similar) results each time. It can take time to develop a system, but in doing so you’ll learn a ton about getting the results you want.
A system could be your exercise plan, your writing schedule, or your process of learning new skills regularly.
A habit is a repeatable action. It’s something you do without thinking about it—unlike a system, which could be a series of actions you take, like an exercise plan that incorporates running, gym, and rest days.
A habit could be eating cereal for breakfast, running every morning, or reading before you go to sleep.
Habits and systems have an important thing in common: they’re repeatable. When you’re working on building a habit or developing a system, you focus on what you do each day, not a far-off goal.
As James Clear says:
“When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.”
Perhaps my favorite reason for focusing on systems and habits over goals is that they give you control. I know from experience that when I set a goal I can’t control, like getting a particular job or improving sales for my business, I feel frustrated and disappointed when I don’t ‘complete’ that goal.
A goal is simply a law which, like all legalistic systems, comes with built in shame, fear or guilt based punishment. It motivates mostly via punishment and the brief hope of a relief from such.
A system, on the other hand, is the creation of a rhythm — the participation in a life transformation that has, as it’s core, longing. It has no punishment inherent within it because there is no bar to reach and it’s pleasure is found in exploration and experimentation on the self which, when successful, is its own enjoyment.