Goals come in all shapes and sizes. Big and small. Audacious and SMART. Whatever you call them and however you set them, they require one thing to reach them – a great system. Building a system to reach your goals will help you not only hit your mark but change your identity while you’re reaching them. 

Systems move goals beyond win or lose

At face value, outcome goals are binary. You either hit them or you don’t. You win or you lose. For example, if your goal is to lose 30 pounds and you lose 29, you fall short of your goal, despite the improvements you’ve made to your health. If your goal is to make 10 sales calls and you only make 9, you didn’t hit your goal, despite the dividends of your actions.

In both cases your effort is likely commendable and celebration worthy, but you may still feel discouraged. As a result, coming up short on these outcome goals can lead to us to do one of two things in the future. We make goals less challenging or, in some cases, we stop setting them altogether because we don’t like to “fail.” Neither of these options is ideal. By building systems to reach your goals, however, you reinforce progress and future success because you’ve practiced doing something differently as you’ve built new life and work habits. 

Focusing on building a system to reach your goals means putting new behaviors on repeat. For example, in the weight loss case, to lose 29 pounds you can focus on eating more vegetables, drinking more water, or working out at a specific time of day. To make those sales calls, you can start your day earlier, motivate yourself with a helpful mantra, or ask a co-worker to check in on your progress every hour. When you focus on building a system to reach your goals, you notice and focus on the small positive shifts in your daily life that are moving you in the direction you’d like to go. You are more likely to repeat these behaviors because you feel better rather than fixating on the outcome goal. 

Align your systems with your identity

We instinctively like to do things that align with our identity. We reinforce who we are through the choices we make each day. Author James Clear says “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” Our goals, then, should align with our identity, or who we want to become. A helpful example is to clarify your pursuit by asking, “Do I want to lose weight or do I want to be a healthy person.” Building a system to reach your goals requires an honest answer to this question. There are plenty of quick-fix diet solutions that will help you lose weight, but becoming a healthy person means asking yourself “what would a healthy person do?” Maybe you begin to get up at 5am, lace-up up your running shoes, and hit the pavement. Or maybe you begin to buy extra vegetables at the store and prep them on the weekend so you have quick grab and go snacks and meals all week. These are examples of how building a system to reach what Clear calls identity-based goals has lasting change with greater impact than an outcome goal like hitting a specific number on the scale.

Building a system to reach your goals will help you shift your life toward the person you want to become and accomplish some great things along the way, no matter how big or how small it may be.