Resolutions are for Reso-losers -- Why Goals Suck
The balls have dropped! In New York, and around the world, meaning that a new year has officially begun. 2017. Wow. Whoulda thunk? A great opportunity for spiritual, metaphysical, moral, facial -- cleansing of all sort. It's a time to set new goals for the new year...
..and fail them by MLK Jr day.
If you're anything like me (or what I assume is a normal member of the human race), you may have spent the last few weeks eating too much, drinking too much, slacking off, arguing with family, losing track of your habits -- and so on! But thanks to the genius behind the hit comic strip DILBERT, there's a good way you can structure your life so that you won't simply fall off the wagon for the nth year in a row. How to set yourself up for success?
Packed to the BRIM with awesome, actionable knowledge, the biggest focus of Scott Adams' tome HOW TO FAIL AT ALMOST EVERYTHING AND STILL WIN BIG is on goals. Specifically, why they suck, and why the almighty SYSTEM should be what you use to structure your ass-kicking life.
"1. Goals are for losers"
An actual quote from the book
And why is that? Because people who follow goals are in a near constant state of failure that they hope is temporary. And what happens when you reach your vaunted goal? You lose your main sense of motivation!
And let's be clear here -- it's not that goals are terrible. Not by a longshot. If you've got goals, you've got ambitions, and that's step 1 down the path to success. However, leaning too hard on just goals is an easy and insidious way to get off the track you want, day by day. So, what's the better way?
Losing 20 pounds is a goal. Eating better is a system. If your only aim is to shrink the number on your scale, what do you do once you reach that promised land? If you're anything like me (and god help ya), you'll probably sit on your laurels, feel a wonderful rush of satisfaction, and promptly order a buffalo chicken pizza.
This is why systems are so damn magical. Like the title of Adams' book implies, you can fail as much as you want, but your system (by definition) is your way to get back on track. Ordered that buffalo chicken pizza 5 days into your diet? Fuck it. You'll never catch up now. Might as well just give up, right?
Order the same pie after committing to eating healthier? You still know all the rules on how to eat better, and you can start again as soon as you've downed the last slice. Systems > goals.
On a personal level, committing to Adams' system of systems (#meta) has lifted a HUGE burden of anxiety off my life. Like many people (again, god help us), I have a tendency towards overwork, overstress, and overexpectation. That can often lead to a good old fashioned breakdown, followed by an unhealthy period of putting off work and tuning out the world. But since instituting systems-thinking into my life, these moments have drifted further apart, and have popped up with far less intensity. I spent the last few days of my holiday break on a serious bender of food, booze, and TV -- much to my chagrin -- but as I write this, on my first day back to the grind, I feel completely at ease knowing that I can slip right back into the systems I've already set up for myself. Some of my greatest hits include:
1. Write every morning.
Who cares what it is? Put the words on a page and in a month you'll have a fucking book.
2. Fast until lunch.
As a big believer in Intermittent Fasting (IF), I know that the day after even the worst food-binge can be mitigated by keeping my caloric intake locked in the hours between 2p and 10p.
3. Avoid procrastination.
Whenever you feel like putting something off, that's a good sign that you should probably do it right now. Whenever I get that feeling, my system is to act on it.
These are just a few examples -- and I'm still figuring all this out myself! But what's important is to realize is that goals -- as individually useful as they may be -- are not the be-all-end-all method to reaching your dreams, your goal weight, happiness, anything! There's a world of systems out there, underexploited and underappreciated, all dying to be discovered and put to use by a human being just like yourself.
PLAY GOD -- PROGRAM YOUR REALITY
One of my favorite expressions is that 'reality is programmable' -- and Adams' amazingly compelling point about systems vs. goals is just one of CHAPTERS worth of amazing ideas to help hack (ack) your lifestyle. It's one of my all time faves, and I can't recommend it enough. Seriously. Here's the link again. It's that good. Here's a further tease on what you can expect, as laid out in the book's intro...
- Goals are for losers
- Your mind isn't magic. It's a moist computer you can program.
- The most important metric to track is your personal energy
- Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success
- Happiness is health + freedom
- Luck can be managed (sort of)
- Conquer shyness by being a phony (in a good way)
- Fitness is the lever that moves the world
- Simplicity transforms ordinary into amazing
WHAT GOALS DO YOU HAVE THAT WOULD BE BETTER SUITED AS SYSTEMS?