Mindset Matters

This is a response piece written in response to Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. written by James Clear on Entrepreneur. This is an old article as it was written December 17, 2013 but I just saw it on a friend's Facebook wall. While reading the article, it struck me the wrong way which is odd because I clearly agree with his ultimate "goal" (no pun intended). But don't get me wrong, James Clear had some really great points that I wanted to address! I won't cover everything he discussed but will try to cover some important ones!

Goals and Systems

As mentioned, I agree that the system is important; however, I believe there needs to be some clarifications with what he discusses.

What's the motivation?

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

This is an important question of the article and James Clear states, "I think you would". I agree and disagree. The reason you would still get results is because the goal correctly framed the system. This is why "ignoring" the goal and focused only on the system would still get results. Without the goal, the system may not be focused correctly, and if the system isn't focused correctly then you won't get results.

A big "What?" moment came when he discussed his personal example which is not an example at all. He states that his word count for the articles he has written in the past year equates to roughly two books. He never set a goal for his writing nor did he have a goal to write two books. What he did focus on was writing one article every Monday and Thursday. This was his system and through the process he had produced results.

The issue with this is that this completely biases his point of view. There is no clear goal in this case, which one may think perfectly satisfies his thesis, but it doesn't. We don't know his motivations for his system. Yes, writing an article every Monday and Thursday is a system, but why is he doing this? What motivation does he have to even write? There's no context. Thus there is something completely "ignored" yet extremely relevant.

This is why I ask, "What's the motivation?". By answering this question, we would know the actual goal that he says we completely ignored. In reality the only thing he did was completely ignore stating the goal! But, I hope you see that the goal would matter, it framed his system. Without it, the system would produce results. Again, I believe the system matters, but the goal really does matter. And to be clear, when I say motivation, I don't mean the driving force but the focus or reason to create such a system which in effect is the goal.

As a quick aside: he writes articles, not books, so his statement of not setting a goal of writing two books is true, but completely irrelevant.

This is very odd because he does acknowledge goals and its importance:

Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.

And this is very important. We need direction and then we need a system. But the direction is important! And not only should you commit to the process, you should commit to yourself!

Goals don't reduce your happiness, you do!

When you're working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, "I'm not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal."

Do people actually think this? I don't think people think they are not "good enough yet". I think people set goals and strive to reach them. I understand that this may be seen as a sentiment that one isn't good enough, but we are all human beings who are living our lives and I hope we are all striving to be better people. I don't think this should ever imply one is not good enough.

I completely agree that there is an issue with mindset. I see time and time again that people have the mindset that James Clear discusses:

The problem with this mindset is that you're teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. "Once I reach my goal, then I'll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I'll be successful."

And he follows up nicely on what the mindset should be:

But we do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.

The quote that I would pull out of this article and really share is the following:

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

I completely agree. I see too many friends care too much about the goals that they never start them or just burn out before reaching the finish line.

The one thing I want to add though is that mindset -- really matters. We all set goals, but many times we set unrealistic goals or goals that we really don't care about. I think that we need to find the drive to achieve our goals but also we will only achieve the goals that we actually care about. Like actually, actually, care about. If you don't care, you will have a hard time achieving.

But, one edge case, is that if you can develop habits and focus on the system as James Clear suggests, then we can achieve. But building those habits don't happen over night. Which means getting to such a mindset is a goal in itself! Somewhat of a dilemma, but if you want it, you have the power to achieve it!

How do we achieve?

Look at yourself and ask you why you aren't? Day after day your goals go unachieved, are you happy? If you are then why care to have failed goals? If you aren't happy then ask yourself, why are you okay with not being happy? Seriously. The solution is you and how you see yourself.

I might be preaching now to the choir but this is a struggle that we all face. We enjoy the laziness and procrastination, but we hate our past regrets. Why? It's so odd that human nature tends towards procrastination. It's a complete consequence that time is sequential. We cannot preceive the future and we seem to not count the future in our present gains, yet when the time comes we roll around in sadness and disappointment.

I can't motivate you but I have motivated myself through this reflection. I don't meditate anymore, nor do I do retrospectives at the end of the day. But every now and then when I am disappointed or sad, I will stop, reflect, and refocus myself on the most important thing: me. From there I feel my goals come back into play, and I begin to achieve them. We shall see where that takes me and I hope to share my achievements over time!


I'm curious on what others feel on the situation. How do you feel about goals? What is your approach to achieve your goals? Do you care about the system? Do you care more about the goal?

A New Beginning
Time Flies

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