January 1, 2020

Goal-setting is for the birds

Instead, focus on building systems that support what you hope to achieve.

Ryan Roghaar
4 min readJan 2, 2020

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So many people kick off the new year looking for a fresh start. Something about the turning of the year suddenly inspires people to want to live their best lives, to transition, and to become better versions of themselves. A newfound interest in hitting the gym to discover the abs you just know are in there. A focused push to get out from under your disorganized life. Working to tame your financial landscape. Learning a new skill, picking up a hobby, or transitioning to a new career. These are just some of the many common resolutions bandied about this time of year. However, while many are quick to post their dreams and hopes on the social channel du jour, most will never experience the satisfaction of achieving them.

I can hear you saying, “dang bro, who peed in your NYE champaign luge.” But let me explain. It’s true. Many don’t ever succeed in achieving their new year resolutions. And let’s be honest, you and I have no doubt swung and missed a few times over the years (just ask my CPA). But the real reason we have trouble hitting the marks we set for our year ahead is that we are setting goals rather than developing systems.

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

Goals versus systems

So what exactly is the difference between a goal and a system you say? A simple way to understand the distinction was offered by Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind the Dilbert comics. He put it like this, “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.

For example, let’s say you’re an entrepreneur. You might set a goal for your burgeoning startup of reaching a million dollars in sales this year, achieving a valuation of X, hiring twenty people, and so on. These goals are focused on an outcome yet do not offer any direction in terms of how you might go about achieving them.

Alternatively, a system for an entrepreneur might consist of product development, human resource management, manufacturing requirements, quality control, and advertising efforts. While each of these processes on their own won’t amount to much, the amalgamation of them working in concert…

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Ryan Roghaar

CEO at R2. Co-Founder at Revvy. Consultant. Artist. Writer? TBD.