Don’t Set Goals, Set Systems.
Goal-setting is fascinating
because it’s sort of a broken process in many respects.
This is the way a goal works: You say to yourself,
“When I achieve, whatever the thing is,
that’s how I’ll know… I’ll have succeeded,
and I’m gonna do everything I can to get to that point as quickly as possible.”
What that means is you exist in a failure state for a long time until you reach that goal,
if it’s a long-range goal.
And so, as you evaluate your process, all you get is the negative feedback
of not having achieved that goal.
Perhaps as you move close to it, there’s some positive feedback,
but if the goal is really the end state that you’re seeking out,
there’s a lot of failure before you get there.
And here’s a thing: When you do get there, there’s a massive anti-climax.
So there are people who achieve the highest highs;
people who achieve the highest highs in athletics, in business,
and if you talk to them and you describe, you ask them to describe what it’s like to reach their goals,
they say things like,
“I got there and it was an incredible anti-climax.
At the minute I got there, I had to start something new, I had to find a new goal.”
“目标一旦实现 我又得重新开始 寻找新的目标”
And that’s partly because there’s something really unsatisfying about the moment of reaching the goal.
Unless it has its own benefits that come from reaching the goal,
if it’s just a sort of signpost;
that doesn’t do much for us, it doesn’t nourish us psychologically.
And what that ends up meaning is that we have to try to find something new.
So really if you look at life as a series of goals, which for many of us, it is,
it’s a period of being unsuccessful in achieving the goal,
then hitting the goal, then feeling like you haven’t really got much from that goal,
going to the next one,
and it’s a sort of series of escalating goals.
A really good example of this is, say, smart watches or Fitbits or exercise watches.
智能手表 Fitbit 或者运动手表都是很好的例子
People, when they get those watches, a lot of them hit on the number 10,000.
“I want to walk 10,000 steps.”
When you do that, the thing will beep;
you’ll feel pretty good about it for a minute,
but then that feels a little hollow and the goal escalates over time.
People will describe going from 10 to 11 to 12 to 14,000 steps
一万步变成一万一 一万二 再到一万四
to the point where they’re moving through injuries, through stress-related injuries,
because the goal is there;
they respond to the goal more than they do to their internal cues,
and basically there’s something really unfulfilling about that.
The reason the goal keeps escalating and becoming more and more intense
is because when they achieve the goal,
they don’t actually get anything for that achievement.
And so goals, generally I think, are in many ways broken processes.
I think part of the problem with goals is that they don’t tell you how to get to where you’re going.
A better thing to do is to use a system.
So the idea behind a system rather than a goal is that a system is saying things like,
“I’m a writer, my goal is to finish writing this book but I’m not going to think about it that way.
“我是个作家 我的目标是写完这本书 但我并不会这样想”
Eventually I’ll have 100,000 words,
but my system will be that for an hour every morning,
I will sit in front of my computer screen and I will type.
It doesn’t matter what that looks like. I’m not going to evaluate the number of words.
I’m not going to set some benchmark, some artificial number or benchmark that I should reach,
what I’m going to do is just say,
‘Here’s my system: an hour a day in front of the screen. We’ll do what I can—bam.'”
And the thing is every time you set a system and you stick to it,
you’re achieving something,
instead of a goal that
you’re failing essentially for long periods of time until you reach the goal.
You’re succeeding every day as long as you adhere to your system,
and you end up getting to the same place but
that framing is so much more effective.
it gives you the kind of positive feedback you seek.
And the system is kind of geared towards psychological well-being:
this is the thing I need to do to feel good about the way I’m moving through the world,
towards whatever end state I’m looking for.
Goals don’t do that,
they just set signposts that you’re supposed to look at from afar and move towards.
Systems are a much more useful way of engaging with the world
towards certain ends and certain outcomes.
Don’t Set Goals, Set Systems.