Forget about goals. Create a system. Okay, this is a fairly new concept to me but one that I believe is going to be a game changer when it comes to reaching/achieving goals. This concept is something I've been using with clients and patients without truly applying it to myself. The very fact you want to make a change means you're trying to create something that doesn't come naturally, or you'd already be doing it. Creating change takes extra energy, and often creates discomfort, since change is typically out of your comfort zone. Big change can feel overwhelming, so I always suggest to focus on the small steps. Small steps feel less intimidating, more doable. Small steps are easier to wrap our heads around, and can keep us present-focused rather than future-focused. Big change is created with an accumulation of small steps applied consistently over time (e.g. journey of a thousand miles consists of single steps taken consistently for a thousand miles). Let's use the metaphorical example of a thousand mile journey for the remainder of this post. If you want to travel a thousand miles, you must create a system which includes walking, or biking, or driving consistently until you reach your destination. If you simply dream of reaching the destination but don't actually put forth the effort of travel to get there, chances are, it's probably not going to happen. Creating effective systems is a two part process:
- Planning, Reflecting, and Analyzing. This is the dreaming, scheming portion of goal work. You must take the time to plan your journey. You must also take the time to stop and reflect on your process throughout, in order to ensure the most effective journey. Creating a system or schedule which includes this free time and/or reflection and analytics is crucial for any type of growth and evolution. Great questions to ask yourself include "What's working and what's not working" "Is there a way I can do more of what's working and less of what's not" "What new strategies can I try". If you want different results, you must do things differently.
- Execution. This is the portion where majority of people fall short (myself included). Most people are able to identify what's not working in their lives or in their strategies, but they aren't able to take the reflecting/analyzing one step further to decide how they're going to execute these changes within their lives. Depressed and isolating? Create a system in which you must get out of the house everyday for appointments, coffee shop runs, meetings with friends, etc. Trying to improve happiness? Wake up 15 minutes earlier every morning to practice a 10-minute gratitude meditation first thing in the morning. Ask yourself "what steps can I take to move me towards my goals?" and "how can I put energy towards my goal everyday?". Identify steps to take towards your goal and then schedule them into your weekly schedule. Decrease the likelihood that you won't follow through with these steps. For example, if you want to travel, set dates, request time off work, and figure out how much money you need to set aside from each paycheck in order to save for the trip.
The most effective systems create a schedule which incorporates both 1. and 2. Thus, if we use our example of the journey of a thousand miles, a successful system might include scheduled in travel time everyday as well as time at the end of each day to map out your route, reflect on what you might need to change in order to make your travel method more effective (e.g. better walking shoes, purchasing a train ticket for the most rigorous part of the course, or for the days when it's scheduled to rain). My husband and I have already begun to map out steps for our goals, how we can schedule these steps into a daily routine, and plan on implementing a 1x/month reflecting/analyzing session together. Good luck everyone, and remember big changes are often created with small steps practiced consistently over time so start where you feel comfortable and don't beat yourself up if something doesn't work. If something doesn't work refer back to step 1, and take it as an opportunity to learn and grow, and as an experience guiding you into the right direction.