Goals? Overrated!

What a positive note to cast with a blog post during Christmas, right?

Our society is obsessed with goals. You hear everyone's talking about them. People set goals for everything. Many self-help books e.g. recommend that you should not only have goals but you should write them down and that they should also be very specific. Some authors even suggest you rewrite your list of goals every single day.

I was in that camp as well (not the last bit though).

The truth is, goals don't matter. Maybe a little bit, but having specific goals and focusing on them has a marginal overall effect on your life.

Pretty much everyone has goals. Yet, do we all achieve them? How many people make the New Year's resolution? How many carry through?

To illustrate, imagine someone who has a goal of becoming a great pianist. She obsesses over the goal, reads a lot of theory, and spends a lot of time dreaming about it, but less time playing. Then there's someone else who has no goals regarding being a world-class pianist whatsoever but she obsesses about playing the piano. She plays day and night.

Who has a bigger chance of becoming a great pianist?

I'm not saying that goals are bad, they're not. It's just that they're irrelevant. You can have a goal or you can not have a goal, both are fine. Think of them more as a general direction. That's about it.

What really matters is having an underlying system.

A system is your habitual behavior. It's the small things you do daily. It's the really small things that most people don't think make any difference at all: e.g., always taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Believe me, I have no fitness goals in mind when I take the stairs - I just do it on autopilot. It's part of my system.

And it's exactly these autopilot actions that determine our life. All these small little, seemingly meaningless things that shape us.

The key is to tweak and change these small things. It's not about going to the gym every day for a month and blasting 2-hour workouts and then stopping. It's about having a healthy lifestyle that consists of consistent exercising.


Instead of writing down the goals, you want to achieve, perhaps try another tactic this time. Don't mention a word about what you want to achieve, but just write how you're going to achieve these things. E.g.: "Every day at 6.30 AM I will learn 20 minutes of Mandarin until I pass the HSK 5 Exam". That's a system. It's a system to become fluent in Chinese. You set it and then forget it.

I hope you, my dear friends are doing well and that the pandemic hasn't torn you down. And even if you feel that it has, just keep pushing forward, for the sake of it. The world is a major shitshow anyway.

Take care and Merry Christmas!

Obligatory reading: Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson