July 24th, 2011 8:44 AM by Lehel S.
The Daily Habits of Success
Last week I wrote that "systems beat goals every time."
Obviously, goals are good and I'm convinced that most human activity is goal-oriented. We want to make our lives better!
We have long-term goals for our careers, for retirement, or education or a special vacation, and we have short-term goals for a celebration next weekend.
Every day, we go to the gym to achieve health or fitness goals. On payday, we save for a desired future or we shop for things to enrich our lives or make life better. In the end, almost everything we do is designed to achieve some result, even if it's relaxing with a movie or napping on the couch.
The problem is not that we can't or "don't know how" to set goals. More often the problem is that we have too many big goals and too many impulsive small goals, so we end up wasting energy while achieving little of lasting value.
After thirty years of working with highly successful people, one of my most powerful observations is that high achievers know how to balance a few specific goals with powerful systems that govern and regulate their daily behavior.
I want to emphasize that this balance point is unique for each individual, and it takes time for most people to find their best combination. Too many goals and we become confused, trying to achieve too many things at once.
On the other hand, with too few (or unclear) goals we fall victim to the whims and impulses of the moment. Without a guiding light to keep us on course, we succumb to temptation, we watch television, we buy the latest gadgets or chase the fad of the moment.
Again, each person seems to have their own "right number"
of big goals! Some people are most productive with a single goal that dominates their time, their action and their life.
It's the focus of everything they do, every day. Other people can handle several specific goals, allocating time and energy among them in a productive way. Most people seem to do best with a short list of three or four major goals.
But here are two critical laws of nature:
1. Nobody can pursue all the goals they might want or desire. Life's short. Time and energy are limited. So choose wisely and focus on a few key items that are most likely to create happiness and success in your life.
2. Systems and daily habits are the key to focused effort and maximum results.
Highly successful people develop systems and routines that automatically eliminate most of the small, tempting distractions in life. They limit their exposure to advertising, and minimize drama and adrenalin so they can focus on their most important goals.
A few weeks ago I was talking with a very successful engineer. He holds over two-dozen patents and has become modestly wealthy because of them. To my amazement, he has never considered a "smart phone!" He uses high-powered computers all day long, but he isn't tempted by toys that might distract his focus or waste his time. He has habits and systems that guide what he reads, what he "sees" in the market place, and what he thinks about. Gadgets don't interest him unless they clearly and immediately help him achieve his goals.
Very much like finding the right number of goals, successful people find a balance of systems and daily habits that run their lives. Too much routine leads to a rigid life with a narrow focus, limited perspective, and loss of personal growth, while weak systems and too little discipline lead to temptation, distraction, loss of focus and reduced results.
The solution is to find the balance-point where your systems and habits permit creativity and fun in your life, while those same systems automatically limit temptation and keep impulsivity to a minimum.
While systems and habits that are too rigid may reduce the fun of life, weak systems that do not screen out distractions leave us exhausted and disappointed. In the end, most people are better at goal-setting than they are at creating systems to achieve their goals. And that's unfortunate.