Scott Adams in, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life writes about the ingredients that have gone into his soup of success. One of which is defining his life in terms of systems rather than goals. Adams writes:
Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. …In the world of dieting, losing twenty pounds is a goal, but eating right is a system. In the exercise realm, running a marathon in under four hours is a goal, but exercising daily is a system. In business, making a million dollars is a goal, but being a serial entrepreneur is a system.
Adams’ point is that we’re going to get more mileage from our systems than our goals. I know this is true from my experiences running. Last summer when I was training for a ten mile race I ran 92 miles in August 2013, I’ve not exceeded that in the last three months combined. I had a goal, the goal ended, and there was no system.
This wasn’t the first time I had heard of this idea. In A Day in the Life of a Minimalist, by Joshua Fields Millburn, he writes, “these days I avoid goals in favor of directions, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a recipe for moving forward.” Millburn too skips goals because, “some people can be momentarily inspired by goal attainment, but that kind of inspiration is ephemeral, that kind of inspiration doesn’t last beyond the goal itself.”
Millburn is saying the same thing Adams mentioned, that he has a larger plan, a bigger idea that moves him forward.