Forget Your Goals

Last week I met a friend who asked me this simple question. “What is one quote that has made the most difference to you? Personally, professionally and has impacted your way of approaching life?” Now, there are so many quotes that have influenced me and singling one out was ridiculous. But I played along and shortlisted a few. And as our coffee grew cold, I could zero in on a few. One of which is what I want to write about today. A quote that found me telling friends and colleagues ‘forget your goals’ with a straight face and facing their wrath after that!

Did you call me mad for saying ‘forget your goals’? I understand if you did. You see, we live in a world were goals are held aloft. A huge desire for winning is present with every person who competes in a race. Be it a race to a Olympic podium or a high chair in the corporate world. That desire often is called a goal and is present with everyone: winners and losers. So, goals by themselves don’t gaurantee victory.

In the modern day world, challenging goals, burning desire combined with limitless perseverance make a winner. Plus, that makes a very good story too. That’s the winner’s story. A winner’s story is often plagued by survivorship bias.

Forget Your Goals.

Of course, goals have a point to them. But they are not the only thing. The modern day accords goals an outsized degree of importance and diminishes the process of getting to the goals.

And that’s precisely what James Clear said.

“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems”

James Clear

That’s a quote that is so much a part of my daily life now and it is so woven into my practice as well. It is very clear to me that there has to be a relentless focus on systems, processes and habits that will bring about the goal.

Goals by themselves take us to a point. But life continues far beyond that point. Systems and ways of working help us not just to get to that point but to continue thriving even afterwards.

When we focus on systems, processes, good habits and align for direction with our goals, we go a long way. Of course we need goals, but we need systems and habits even more. Goals by themselves are pointless. That’s why I say, forget your goals. Stay relentless with getting better with the process.

Our goals can inspire. It is the efficiency and rigour of our systems that will lift our game and get us to the goal!

So, What Could You Do?

Well, for a start, look at your goals. Especially some of the goals that have stayed as goals. If those goals do not have systems, habits and processes that you have worked on and examined often, they are not goals. They are wishes and desires.

Ask yourself what habits and systems in your life you will have to change for you to reach some of your tall goals? That’s where I began after I first heard James Clear say this. And that’s why this quote has made a difference.

Over to you. What is one quote that has changed your life? Drop me a note with that quote and I will share it around.

OWL Despatch
OWL Despatch

The OWL Despatch

This is the __ edition of The OWL Despatch. Every fortnight I put out one with a short essay and a curated set of five reads. Stuff that caught my attention and interest. Today I am letting you in a secret. While subscribers to the The OWL Despatch have grown over the years, that has not been my goal. Actually it is the best system that I have to read, make sense and share with a vibrant set of people. It is a system that keeps me focused on learning and changing!

Here are this edition’s curated reads.

The Number One Life Skill That Schools Surprisingly Don’t Teach. If you are interested in learning and thriving in the future, you will not miss this. If not for anything else, at least to start a conversation.

Randomized trials are changing the way governments and aid organizations study — and deliver — measures to reduce inequality and poverty. I loved this.

Why Social Media Makes People Unhappy—And Simple Ways to Fix It
I have posted and written on this topic several times. But more of it needs to get said. Many times over. Research suggests platform designs make us lose track of time spent on them and can heighten conflicts, and then we feel upset with ourselves

The Secret World of Pointing. This familiar gesture has a surprisingly vast array of meanings and uses.

Five Facts That Will Mess With Your Perception of Time.
” Humans generally have a poor concept of time. Too many of us are concerned with what happens over hours and days rather than months, years, or even centuries. Rarely can we see past our own self-important lifespans. “

That’s that for this edition. Remember, if you are fretting about your goals, forget your goals. Focus on your habits and systems. They will take you far. That’s my experience. I look forward to hearing from you.


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