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Are you setting explicit goals or implicit goals?

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Are you setting explicit goals or implicit goals?

Scott Miker

Years ago I worked for an organization that was trying to increase its revenue with some new, innovative products.  The stated goals were all around driving customers to these new solutions to make money for the company.

But the company seemed like it was doing things that worked against its goal of increasing its customer base and driving more money into the organization.  Many people became convinced that the leadership was deliberately trying to sabotage the organization.   

This is incredibly common.  We see companies do things that seem to point to the fact that they are evil, and trying to deliberately hurt investors. 

Or we see politicians and think they are all corrupt.  They say they care about the environment and then they pass a law to allow more natural resources to be used for profit by a few powerful energy companies.

Most people see the world in black and white and think they must be deliberately doing the opposite of what they intend to do.  In other words, they lie to us. 

But the reality is that many of these leaders aren’t evil.  In fact, they are doing what they think is best and trying to do the right thing.

Part of the issue deals with explicit and implicit goals.  The government might say their goal is to improve the environment.  This becomes their stated, documented, discussed goal.  But then they side with big energy companies because that helps them raise funds for their campaigns.  Raising money for their campaign is an underlying driver of behavior.  In other words they have explicit goals (improve the environment) and implicit goals (raising money for their campaign).

Many times our implicit goals are not defined.  They are driven by emotions and habit. 

The business leader that delivers a watered-down product because he or she is trying to please numerous board members rather than consumers is a great example.  The explicit goal of growing revenue by appealing to customers is overshadowed by their need to please the board so they keep their job. 

Evaluating explicit and implicit goals is important for us to have a better overview of the full system at play, rather than looking at things as black and white.  When our implicit and explicit goals align, success becomes easy.  But too often we have underlying implicit goals that are in direct conflict with the explicit goals.  What’s worse is that they tend to get ignored.   

It is also helpful for us to better understand why we can’t reach certain goals.  Our explicit goal might be to lose weight but our implicit goal might derail those efforts if our implicit goal is to derive pleasure from overeating.

In order to improve, we have to be conscious of the implicit goals in our lives and work to change those.  We can’t just say what we want; we have to do the hard work to achieve our goals. 

This is where the systems and habits approach to improvement shines.  By focusing on the underlying aspects to our goals and focusing on the habits driving behavior, we can make deliberate change and move towards success.

If you want to set goals, make sure you are aware of the implicit goals that often go unspoken but hold great power.  Address these as well as the explicit goals and you will find yourself moving closer and closer to the goals you set and the success you desire.