Systems vs. Goals: The Resolution Revolution?

Systems vs. Goals: The Resolution Revolution?

Happy New Year! The DFC team hopes you’ve had a year of joy, challenge, and prosperity, and are looking forward to more of the same in 2019.

With the calendar turnover approaching, I’m sure many of us have been thinking about resolutions. In my case, I mostly think about them to immediately discount them — I’m not a fan of being told what to do, even if it’s by my past self!

So I’ve gotten interested in a different way of thinking about resolutions: one that’s not necessarily new, but that I’ve seen pop up on a few productivity blogs recently.

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert and business and political commentator, outlined his process of “systems over goals” on his blog back in 2013 (before he got kind of alarmingabout American culture).

His productivity advice is quite cogent thought. Adams’ theory pits the standard, goal-oriented way of getting things done against one that he says Adams says is far more effective: the creation of a system, a state of small steps that serve to improve your self in relation to what you want to do — with the achievement of the goal as a side effect. He gives an example by citing his blogging system:

“Writing is a skill that requires practice. So the first part of my system involves practicingon a regular basis. I didn’t know what I was practicing for, exactly, and that’s what makes it a system and not a goal. I was moving from a place with low odds (being an out-of-practice writer) to a place of good odds (a well-practiced writer with higher visibility).

The second part of my blogging system is a sort of R&D for writing. I write on a variety of topics and see which ones get the best response. I also write in different “voices”. […] You readers do a good job of telling me what works and what doesn’t.

When the Wall Street Journal took notice of my blog posts, they asked me to write some guest features. Thanks to all of my writing practice here, and my knowledge of which topics got the best response, the guest articles were highly popular. […]

So the payday for blogging eventually arrived, but I didn’t know in advance what path it would take. My blogging has kicked up dozens of business opportunities over the past years, so it could have taken any direction”

I think this concept is inherently freeing because it leverages what you can personally control: if you set a goal to land a particularly large company as a client, for example, and you don’t because that company goes under, that’s technically a failure. But, if you were to establish a system of sending out one new pitch per day instead, your success becomes automatic, and landing Company X is a natural outgrowth.

I think I’m going to apply this process to a few things in 2019 I want to approach differently — my music for example. Dear readers, what systems or goals are you revisioning in the New Year? Whatever your chosen challenge, we at DFC wish you all the best!