Whenever goal-setting and the concept of using systems to succeed comes up, some people automatically assume that we are talking about some quick-fix “system” that instantly solves all of our problems and gives us massive amounts of money and success.
This is completely the opposite of the systems and habits approach to improvement. While systems thinking may give us a different perspective on how to improve and will likely shed light on leverage points that can make improvement more likely, it still requires hard work and diligence.
In Navy SEAL David Goggins book, Can’t Hurt me, he describes this quick-fix mindset. He says, “Our culture has become hooked on the quick-fix, the life hack, efficiency. Everyone is on the hunt for that simple action algorithm that nets maximum profit with the least amount of effort. There’s no denying the attitude may get you some of the trappings of success, if you’re lucky, but it will not lead to a calloused mind or self-mastery. If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back it up.”
I love his take on this. Many people assume that successful individuals got there from luck or talent. They must have bypassed the difficulties and challenges and just floated to the finish line. This isn’t the case.
Success requires hard work. We have to be willing to put in the hours in order to see the results.
But for most people, then, the question isn’t how to find the magic button; it is how do I start to do the hard work?
When I was in middle school I was addicted to hard work. I was trying to play football for the first time and knew that most of the other kids had an advantage. So I would push myself further than anyone else and do more than anyone else to gain a slight advantage.
I would be at the track running laps on the weekends. I was working out multiple times a day. At practice I was the first one around the track every time we had to run and the last one to leave at the end of practice.
It worked. I ended up being one of the most valuable players that year and started every game as a captain.
But I never really thought about what I was doing. So as time went on I slowly got more and more lazy. In high school, I stopped pushing myself to be first around the track and barely worked out, outside of the stuff I had to do in practice.
It wasn’t until almost 10 years later that I started to realize that hard work isn’t as simple as it sounds. Most of us know what to do to reach a goal, but somehow we still fall short. The problem is that nobody really explores how to do those things that matter.
The systems and habits approach to improvement gets to the specifics of how. It forces us to start small and build the right habits and structures to follow. It gives us a path forward. But it still requires us to do the hard work. We can’t just skip over that.
So if there is a goal that you have and know it is important to you, take the time to think through the how part. How are you going to reach that goal? What is the process look like? How are you going to start to do more than you currently do?
Doing that will give you more insight into the specific steps that you will need to take. Then, set out to do what you need to do and be willing to keep working hard in order to keep making strides forward. Doing that will make it possible to do the hard work consistently so you have a shot at the success you crave.