Forget About Goals, Focus On Systems Instead

Yash Raj
4 min readNov 20, 2020
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

I am currently reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. The concept of Systems vs. Goals caught my eye and I wanted to share my view on it.

For many years I believed, the best way to achieve anything I want in life is to set specific, actionable, and achievable goals. I used to set goals for everything I want in life. I set goals for the weights I need to lift in the gym, for the grades, I want in school among many others. I succeeded at a few, but I failed at most of them.

Yes, Goals are important but eventually, I realized that the results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the system I followed to achieve them.

How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.

Yvon Chouinard

Difference between Goals and Systems

Systems are almost the opposite of goals, in that they’re entirely about creating a repeatable set of actions instead of considering the overarching goal that they’re working towards.

Losing 15 pounds is a goal, whereas eating the right food and working out daily is a system.

But are goals completely useless? Absolutely not. Goals are good for setting a direction for us, but without a proper system in place, we will never make progress.

Systems are consistently rewarding

A goal is a target which you can’t yet reach. Therefore, the attitude when working towards it is inherently negative, which itself is demotivating. But if you for once forget about this ambitious goal and focus on the much simpler system you have designed, you will feel good every time. Each time you apply your system successfully, dopamine gets released in your brain’s reward center because it knows you did something good.

Systems are more realistic and flexible

Achieving a goal is only a momentary change

Suppose you need to lose 10 pounds. You get a sudden burst of motivation. You hit the gym, eat the right food for 2 months continuously without fail. You achieve your goal. Congrats…

Yash Raj

Here to help people in their personal development. Software developer by skill, an artist by passion. Writing my first book, "The burn of failure"