Should you have Goals or Systems?

Goal Planning

In December, James Clear wrote a post for Entrepreneur magazine entitled “Forget Setting Goals, Focus on This Instead“. The “this” of the piece was creating systems. It was a thought provoking piece, especially given the number of posts exuding the benefits of goals setting and planning for the year to come. A lot of the post made great sense, but lead me to ask should you have goals or systems, and are they mutually exclusive.

I enjoyed a lot of the piece and fully believe in building effective systems to get work done, but it appeared that Clear was purporting that you should have one without the other. That you only needed to have systems and all else would fall nicely into place. To illustrate his point, he noted that he had written 115,000 words in the 11 months prior to posting this piece, enough for two books, though he had not set out to write a book. Clear, to distinguish between goals and systems, used the book instance a little further:

“If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is your writing schedule that you follow each week”.

And it’s true that you need good habits (or systems) to help you stay focused on task. In his post he asked that if you focused on the habit, would you achieve your ultimate goal. It of course presumes that you have an end or a sign post in mind at the outset.

The only area that didn’t sit quite as well with me was the assertion, that having a goal inhibited your ability to  enjoy the process; or as Clear notes “goals reduce your current happiness”. Now it’s true that too many people penalize themselves by believing that they have to achieve a goal before they can be happy, or as Clear rightly echos “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.” Fortunately, we are learning so much more from the social sciences on being mindful that we can lay that “puritan work ethic” to rest and allow ourselves to enjoy the journey. After all, we’re all likely familiar with quotes  like Greg Anderson’s ” Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it”; or Jim Rohn’s “You can not change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction”.

It’s been my experience that building systems (habits) to help you reach a destination is a sure way to experience happiness and success. We all get great enjoyment from the hit of dopamine we receive for checking off a task from our to-do lists. Those destinations can be our ultimate task or the benchmarks along the way. For me our goals are not commandments, set in stone without the ability to rewrite them as situations or opportunities arise, but are merely signposts to help us know if we are on the right track to the destination we initially envisioned. When we do stray off track, it also provides us with the opportunity to know if the original destination was the right one in the first place, if not, then we can start to alter that destination. Without a destination in mind, how will we ever know if we’re heading in the right direction. Clear notes that having that big goal can add so much stress, but it’s been my experience that if you break the big goal into it’s component parts, you reduce the stress and get to enjoy the process more by setting up mini-wins along the way. My concern with the tenor of his piece goes to the fact that Stephen Covey so elegantly noted (paraphrased) “We can build a ladder, and climb the rungs, only to find that we’ve got it balanced against the wrong wall”. It’s so important to know where you are going.

We both agree that goal setting is an important element of success. Clear notes at the end of the piece “that goals are good for planning your progress, and systems are good for making progress”, and without a doubt a goal that doesn’t have a plan (process) attached to it is just a dream.

I see this so often with clients, the one or another dilemma, do you focus on goals or systems. All to frequently, they have an end goal in mind, but haven’t built effective processes or habits to implement the plan, or they focus to much on the “How” and don’t have any idea of “Why” they are doing what they are doing, thus missing out on the passion and ultimate destination. A great work to refer to from a social media plan and execution regard is Neal Schaffer’s “Maximize Your Social” [review coming] and “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling.

I’d encourage you to read the initial post and share your best practices to execute, monitor and reach your goals.


2014s Three Guiding Words

3 Guiding words

This year as part of my overall planning, I’ve taken Chris Brogan‘s challenge/suggestion to heart and have adopted three guiding words for 2014 to use not only in my business, but in my personal development as well. Below you’ll find the 2013 and 2014 posts that Chris did in regard to his words, the process and what he’s found it means to him. I personally like the idea of having words (mental images) that I can return to when weighing decisions about how I’ll spend my time and energy. My hope, is the addition of the guiding words will stimulate more creativity and help get me back on track, anytime I stray away from the path I’m looking to take/share this year.

Why adopt this challenge? It’s a good question. I was looking for a way to revitalize my planning process and the subsequent journey. In his 2013 post Brogan noted “I’ve found the concept of three words allows me to think in more dimensions about what I want to do with my life and it lets me apply lots of tangible goals…” and this resonated with me. In both of his posts (see below), he gives clear directions as to how to create yours, the words he’s used in the past and how when he experimented with 4 words once, what the result was.

The process in discovering my words was easier than I had imagined. I had a good idea of what I wanted to accomplish in 2014 in the three areas of professional, personal and financial health. Lately, I’ve been reading and studying the activities of Simon Sinek and Brene Brown and the first word was very top of mind. As Brogan noted, “The words are meant to be a “shorthand” or memory trigger to your larger vision, goals and plans”.

2014 Three Guiding Words:

So without further adieu, here are my three guiding words:


My goal is to inspire others to achieve their personal and professional goals in 2014 and beyond. For myself, it’s also a reminder to continually seek out different perspectives and ideas on ways to lead an inspired life. I’ve been fortunate to have had so many divergent influences and interests over the years that I don’t fit nicely into any one category. It’s a small problem in trying to develop a niche, but a real benefit in searching for innovated solutions to problems. Brian Fanzo wrote this post on Twitter, and I couldn’t agree more. I hope to inspire others to do so as well.



I’m looking forward to cultivating stronger personal and professional relationships, with old friends and new alike in 2014.  The power of social for me has been the ability to connect with so many interesting and talented people throughout the world. The next step for me is to meet some or as many as reasonably possible this coming year. I’m looking to forge strong working relationships with others that share my passion for delivering exceptional service and who are looking to inspire their communities to achieve success and happiness. The power of social has reconnected me to folks from my past. Each have gone on to do wonderful and creative things from the last time I got to spend time with them. An example is Brett Heard. An inspiration for certain. Brett has forged a great career at Fresh Baked Entertainment. When Brett released his first, of what I’m sure will be more motion pictures, “Stag”, I got to see an early cut of the film with a focus group. The invitation to attend was a great honour, but the best part was being able to see Brett, shake his hand and congratulate him on his hard work and success over the years. It’s been a real treat watching his wonderful career and skills grow. In addition, I’ve got to see how he is a great family man as well. I really am looking forward to experiencing that feeling with others, I feel I know, but haven’t met yet this year and sharing those experiences with Joan and Spencer.


Having the courage to step out of my comfort zone to achieve happiness, health and to ensure I continue to cultivate and inspire. This one will take more work, as in the past I’ve allowed myself to be sidetracked by projects that were not necessarily a good fit for my values or goals. Over the years I’ve gotten very possessive of my time, especially in carving out that time for family. I’ll need the courage to say no to projects that don’t fit, but still have the humanity to guide them to someone who may be a much better fit. I’ll need courage to avoid falling into easy patterns and to make commitments to stick to habit changes I want to push beyond settling for the status quo.

So far, with these three guiding words, I’ve committed to my four “study” books for the year, a commitment to pursue podcasting, commitment to complete a couple of online courses and certifications, improve the service levels for clients, develop a proprietary online training course for a niche industry in transition and schedule opportunities to meet more people in person.

I’m lookingforward to seeing the impact of these guiding intentions on this years journey.

 What are your words or techniques that help keep you on track to achieving your goals?



Chris Brogan’s “My Three Words for 2013” post

Chris Brogan’s “My Three Words for 2014” post