There are a lot of authors that explain goals and how important it is to have goals. They tend to stress the importance of setting goals in order to improve throughout one’s life.
But despite the overabundance of information available, many of us still struggle. The reason is simple… having knowledge of something doesn’t mean it magically gets done.
The reality is that there is a crucial area that is overlooked in these books. The how part seems to be missing when motivational authors tell us to set and reach goals.
The reason is simple. Discussing the importance of setting goals and why it is important to reach new levels of success is relatively easy. Reaching the goals you set is the difficult part.
But there are some great books that take a more realistic stance of reaching goals. They almost always touch on things that you need to do in order to succeed. But even these resources fall short of doing the work for you (naturally).
So what we are left with is a bunch of great insight but we still need to actually go out and make the necessary changes in order to get different results that what we currently have.
To me, this is where the systems and habits approach really shines. This approach says that we have to start looking at the underlying systems in these areas and start to make specific changes to the systems in order to improve and reach our goals.
While this approach might not be as flashy and exciting as making a vision board that will make all of your dreams come true, it will be much more effective. Because any goal that is set that will require hard work, should start by addressing the actual work that will have to take place.
One way to focus on the systems and habits in order to improve is what I call setting the minimum. Setting the minimum gives a clear direction to find a very small element of the system to change. It can be a small piece of the larger system, it could be a leverage point in the system, or it could just be a starting point because you don’t know where else to go to start.
Find that small change and decide to do it consistently. This is why it has to be small. As long as it is small enough, it will become easier and easier to keep doing it. As you do it more and more and more it will start to become habit. This is important because once it becomes habit it goes on autopilot and keeps going without as much effort or will power. So the important part is that you keep doing it over and over again, not the specific action you are taking.
This autopilot mode is how you can continue to improve and grow. Once this change becomes habit, you can then start to add other changes or increase the minimum until you start to see the results that you desire.
What you are really starting to do is add new positive habits into your daily routines. These habits are powerful over time and give you a foundation on which to keep adding more and more. In other words, the work you do today to build the habits, keeps growing and building tomorrow, even after you stop focusing on it.
The reality is that there are underlying systems in everything we do. When we drive to work we are following set patterns and getting there without much thought. This is the power of habit at work. Driving a car becomes natural and automatic. At first it may take a lot of focus and attention on everything you are doing but over time becomes more and more automatic.
But most of us don’t use this to the full extent. We create a new habit and then sit on it without any real attempt to improve. This is why most people don’t improve their driving significantly over time. But if we could use this approach we could start to focus on different areas of driving such as driving within the speed limit, correctly utilizing the blinker, getting better at avoiding bad situations on the road etc. Then over time we can use the power of habit to continuously improve our driving abilities.
So whatever goal you have set, whatever you want to achieve, start by finding some systematic element and then set a minimum to begin to start changing that element. Because doing this gets you past the thinking part of setting a goal and onto the work that is necessary in order to succeed.