One of the great systems thinkers, W. Edwards Deming once said, “A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim.”
The aim is very important and without it we just stumble through without improving. We have to set a direction to move.
Another great systems thinker is Michael Gerber. Gerber says, “With no clear picture of how you wish your life to be, how on earth are you going to live it? What is your Primary Aim? Where is the script to make your dreams come true?”
In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons why most people don’t take aim and set goals is that they have no idea how to reach them. The goals end up feeling like meaningless wishes that will only lead to disappointment.
I have certainly felt that way. It becomes a very hopeless mindset and leads to saying, “what’s the use” and following short-term gratification over long-term success.
This is a huge problem because the short-term choices we make turn into habits. They become solidified over time and become automatic. We may think they are decisions that we make each time but the patterned response starts to take control and we barely think about it before acting next time.
A quote from Robert Kiyosaki highlights this for a business, but it also relates to the systems and habits in the rest of our lives. “For a business to survive and thrive, 100 percent of all the systems must be functioning and accountable. For example: An airplane is a system of systems. If an airplane takes off and the fuel system fails, there often is a crash. The same thing happens in business. It’s not the systems that you know about that are the problem – it’s the systems you are not aware of that cause you to crash.”
How many times can we see this in someone else? We can see why a coworker never gets promoted. He or she might not understand why they got passed over for a position but others around usually see why. We can see why someone has money problems due to reckless spending but they seem to miss it. It is hard for us to see our own flawed systems. We are biased and too insecure to really understand them.
One way to address this is to be more open to feedback from others. Others may clearly see limitations. But if you put up your defenses when this happens you miss the opportunity to improve and soon they stop telling you what is wrong.
But seeing the systems only opens our eyes to these failing systems. It doesn’t necessarily fix the systems. Most smokers know about their habit but can’t just suddenly quit. It takes a lot of effort to change the system.
If the biggest reason most people don’t set goals is because they don’t really know how to improve over time, then we have to focus there. We have to better understand improvement.
For me, improvement is all about systems and habits. We use the same core elements that create bad habits and use them to create the systems and habits that take us towards long-term success and away from short-term gratification.
This doesn’t mean that we always avoid short-term gratification. It means that we make the auto response (habit) one that means long-term success. Then we can choose to go away from that from time to time if we want. But over time we start making better choices and making progress towards our goals.
So take aim. Set a direction that you want to go. Set goals around that direction and start doing small things to change the systems and habits in your life. These small changes will lead to great success. There is a quote that I read from Brian Tracey that points to this. He says, “Small differences in your [system] performance can lead to large differences in your results.”