Monday, December 30, 2013

"Forget Setting Goals"

Here's a short article from "Entrepreneur" magazine about a point often raised here on the Slog. Here's the gist:

The Difference Between Goals and Systems
What’s the difference between goals and systems?

If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

For example, if you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results?

I think you would.
Yup. This is why competition is a fallacy (as I tried to explain here and here). The trick is to do the thing you do with all the love you've got and let the chips fall. Pushing for an outcome never helps.

Plus, there's a larger point about motivation (e.g. most singers become singers because they want to be singers, not because they want to sing...which is why most singers are so awful).

There are a jillion ways to make this point - which explains why it's been made a jillion ways since the dawn of humanity (though most people still can't seem to grok it). But I'm surprised this article made it into a business journal. Back in the 1970's, you saw a lot of this published, as hippy businessmen tried to square their worldview with their capitalist impulses, and patrician money managers dug into their own psychologies to gain an investment edge.

The most successful popular financial writer of his time, who wrote under the name "Adam Smith", published a book titled "Powers of Mind" which was hugely influential on me as a child. But while there are still money managers out there with profound insight into human behavior from a lifetime of constantly focusing there, the business press has fallen out of the habit of giving voice to this sort of thing.

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