The One Habit that Changed My Life: Set Systems Rather than Goals

The One Habit that Changed My Life: Set Systems Rather than Goals

We all hear it, don’t we? “Set goals and achieve your dreams!” But there’s a bit of a flaw in that thinking. What if I told you there’s a different, more effective method to realize your aspirations? A method that’s transformed how I approach every aspect of my life? I’m talking about setting systems instead of goals.

Goals are powerful because they tell your subconscious what to work on. They also help guide your conscious decision-making. I have always believed in written goals for their power to guide my life in the direction I want to go. They have worked for me over the long term. However, I found a far more powerful habit decades ago than setting goals alone: creating systems. A goal tells you what you want to happen, but a system makes it happen step by step through actions.

A goal without a system for knowing what to do and doing it; is just a wish. Systematically moving toward your goal will get you there far faster than knowing what you want with no plan for achievement.

Don’t just set a goal; set a system to achieve your vision. A system can even replace your goals as you realize the work and effort it will take to get to where you thought you wanted to go. A system will help you learn and adapt and maybe even find completely different opportunities you didn’t even know existed.

Let’s take a deeper look.

Why Setting Systems is Better Than Just Setting Goals

In life, we often find ourselves fixated on results. Lose weight. Write a novel. Save money. These are goals that, while valuable, may lead to disappointment if not achieved. On the other hand, systems are the routine steps you take each day to make progress, regardless of the result.

Goals are like lofty peaks shrouded in clouds. We know they’re there, but the path can be treacherous and unclear. Systems are the daily steps we take on the journey, regardless of whether the peak is visible. They are reliable, controllable, and offer daily progress you can feel and see.

Why I Focus on Systems to Achieve My Goals

Goals are singular events; once achieved, then what? I’ve found that focusing on systems, the daily grind, and the routine is more satisfying and effective. A goal might be writing a book, but the system is to write 1,000 words every day. If I write each day, the book almost writes itself. I have a process for achieving what I want. If I do the work, only time separates me from the vision of writing a book. I may learn I need grammar software, an editor, and a publisher in my book writing system. I may learn that best-selling books have specific topics and that authors promote their books on podcasts and Amazon ads. My job would be to work my system; this is a far different process than writing a goal. It applies to all goals, investing, trading, writing, business, and a career. Systems are goals with work boots on following a path.

Systems become habits ingrained into your daily life. They’re sustainable, where achieving a single goal can sometimes feel like a dead end. The focus shifts from the pressure of the result to the satisfaction found in daily progress. Every day should move you toward achieving your planned results.

How Do You Set Up Systems Instead of Goals?

Setting systems means taking the broader goal and breaking it down into more minor, daily actions. Want to get fit? Your system could be 20 minutes of exercise each day. Is your goal to read twelve books this year? Read ten pages daily. It’s about taking the goal from the equation and focusing solely on the process. Transform your goal into a system. Take it from a vision to systematic action.

What Is an Example of a System vs. Goal?

Let’s take weight loss as an example. Your goal may be to lose 20 pounds, but how? The system is the answer. It’s a shift in diet, a commitment to daily exercise, and an adjustment to lifestyle. It’s not about the number on the scale but the healthier choices you make every day. A weight loss system would define the parameters of your meal timing and your food’s calories and nutritional benefits. Your weight loss system would have a strategy for what to do and what not to do that would affect your weight. Your focus would be on your actions, not the scale. If you followed the right weight loss system, weight loss would result.

How Do You Set Systems in Your Life?

Start by identifying your overarching goal. From there, work backward to determine what daily actions could lead to that outcome. These actions become your system. Remember, the objective isn’t to reach the goal quickly; it’s to establish a daily routine that makes progress inevitable.

Why Are Systems Better Than Goals?

While goals are outcome-oriented, systems focus on the process and journey. A flexible, adjustable system that you can execute with discipline consistently sets you up for long-term success. Goals can leave you feeling unfulfilled if not reached, while a system provides satisfaction in every small step taken, giving a sense of accomplishment every day.

Key Takeaways

  • Focus on the journey (systems), not the destination (goals).
  • Shift your mindset from outcome-driven to process-driven.
  • Break down large aspirations into small, achievable daily routines.
  • Systems provide flexibility and consistent progress.
  • Systems are habitual, sustainable, and fulfilling.


In the quest for personal growth, we often overlook the simple power of consistency. Not the lofty, distant goals but the habitual, daily routines genuinely make the difference. Setting systems rather than goals allows for a more gratifying journey punctuated by small victories. This transformation in mindset, from destination to journey, from outcome to process, can bring about a meaningful and lasting result for our efforts. A system transforms the right actions to achieve our goals into habits over time. Systems are the way to get what you want.