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Take your time (even if it means setting lessor goals) and keep making progress

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.  

Take your time (even if it means setting lessor goals) and keep making progress

Scott Miker

When it comes to setting goals and trying to accomplish new objectives in life, it is natural to want to get there quickly.  We want to reach the finish line right away.

This leads to a natural tendency to rush.  We rush through the hard work in order to get to the prize.  Unfortunately, though, this rushing hurts our ability to win the prize.  It makes it more likely that we will fall short of our goal.

When you use the systems and habits approach to improvement, you can’t rush.  Rushing will actually sabotage your effort and cause you to fail.  Instead, you have to focus on creating the right foundation and then leveraging parts of the system to get you to the finish line.

I learned this the hard way.  I didn’t have patience when I was younger.  I wanted to have the success now, and then do the work.  But this just led to shortcuts and shortsighted attempts to improve. 

Over time I realized that I was failing because of my eager attempts to have it all now.  It wasn’t because I didn’t have enough ambition; it was because I had too much ambition. 

The ways that I learned my way through these mistakes was actually to drastically lower my goals.  I didn’t shoot for the stars anymore; I shot for some minimal type of improvement.

Some people would criticize this and say we should always dream big and think bigger.  But for me that just added way too much too soon.  Suddenly I felt like I had to be at the finish line now so any obstacle would crush me. 

When I would set a goal, I realized that this end result goal didn’t address how I was going to reach the goal.  So I started to set goals around what I was doing, not what I hoped to get.

This is called setting process goals.  We set goals around the process that we have to take in order to succeed.  So if we want to get an “A” on a test, we set the goal to study for a certain number of hours per day.  The outcome goal can still be to get an “A” but now we have something that will push us to do the right things. 

Splitting up my outcome goals and process goals and setting smaller, short-term goals actually allowed me to set the foundation to achieve longer term goals down the road.  I was able to keep at it.

It turned out that this was the key for me.  The reason I was failing was because I was impatient and wasn’t consistently taking the right steps.   

Once I shifted my approach around I started to realize this approach works in many different areas.  I was able to quit smoking, lose about 40 lbs, pay off over $10,000 in credit card debt, and even earn an MBA.  Everything that happened was a result of this new way of thinking about goals and learning to be patient. 

The other factor that played a role is shifting from constantly analyzing if I reached a goal, to evaluating whether or not I was making progress.  Suddenly I realized that if I keep making progress I would continue to have more and more success. 

This led me to a life of constant, systematic improvement.  I still fall short of goals at times, but now that my focus is on continuing to make progress I can confidently adjust the process until it takes me towards the success I desire.