Everyone has goals. The greatest footballer in the world (Messi or Ronaldo either way) didn’t get where he is by having ambitious goals. Lots of people have that goal. He got there by having a good system in place to reach it.
This is why people set new year’s resolutions – in the hopes of building healthy habits which form a system for reaching their goals. But when they don’t see results instantly, people lose hope and give up. This is because it’s important to not only set resolutions, but have specific, actionable steps in those resolutions to get there.
Small improvements (like working out once) don’t show results instantly, which is why people give up. Also, small bad habits (like a cheat meal) don’t tip the scale much, so they’re easy to repeat and let slide. You results are a lagging measure of your habits (e.g. your house’s cleanliness is a lagging measure of your cleaning habits).
Similarly, a system helps you reach your goals. Building a successful business doesn’t just happen; it occurs as the result of a system of marketing campaigns, networking, and feedback. People postpone their happiness until they earn X amount of money or obtain Y promotion. But they might never reach that. So it’s better to be happy when the system/process is running. Additionally, a system helps maintain the results, and not backslide.
I’m reading a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear, which is about how small habits add up to significant success. The aggregation of marginal gains – searching for small improvements in every aspect of something. It’s similar to what Japanese businesses call kaizen – continuous, incremental improvements. “An atomic habit is a little habit that is part of a larger system”, says Cleary.
There’s a TED Talk by US navy admiral William McRaven called “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”. Yes, this may be an exaggeration. But completing a task gives you satisfaction and encourages you to complete more. And if you have a very crummy day, you can come home to a made bed. Forming a healthy habit like this sets you up for a happier, more productive day.
This is why I spend time at the beginning of each year writing lots of detailed personal resolutions. I note steps to achieve them and review them a few months later. And I accomplish ~70% of those resolutions. At work I spend lots of time improving the way things run – streamlining, standardising, simplifying my workflows. The motto is automate what you can, and optimise everything else. And that’s how I get so much more work done than many colleagues. I’m trying to build healthy habits in my personal life will make me better, and developing a solid system for achieving my goals to (slowly) get to success.