Beware of advice about successful people and their methods. For starters, no two situations are alike. Your dreams of creating a dry-cleaning empire won’t be helped by knowing that Thomas Edison liked to take naps. ~ Scott Adams
This past week, I was asked if I really practiced “smile therapy.” Because my answer is related to a question I received several months ago from another reader about goals, today, I’d like to talk about systems vs. goals.
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big writes:
To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal – if you reach it at all – feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. That feeling wears on you. In time, it becomes heavy and uncomfortable. It might even drive you out of the game.
As an alternative to being goals-focused, Adams recommends being system-focused where:
A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.
As long time readers of this blog might suspect, I wholeheartedly share this sentiment. (See goals: the limiting or motivating factor in small business success? and improving your odds of success as two examples) Indeed, other than advising our children to “find your passion” and you’ll achieve success, there are few pieces of advice passed onto our youth I find as utterly useless as those equating success to goal setting.
I realize this may seem seem sacrilegious, particularly to those of you in corporate America who look forward to performance reviews, strategic planning sessions, etc. I mean, really, where would we be without an Everest to climb, a sales target to meet, a product launch date, etc.?
I’d argue however, more of us would get closer to our desired destinations with smiles on our faces by focusing on building/improving systems that increase the odds of success. I’d even go so far as to say most of the people who you think are exemplars of the goal setting mantra are probably just people who were incredibly good at setting up systems/habits that enabled them to reach their goals.
Returning to the question at hand, I have, and I do, in fact, practice smile therapy. Having seen the benefits that come from being less introverted, I went about setting up a system to take me out of the dark cave I inhabited. Day in and day out I practiced – making adjustments and improvements along the way. I’ll never be an extrovert (i.e., the goal) but I can say my system has enriched me and continues to contribute to my happiness and success.
And the best part? I’ve had a smile on my face every step of the way.
So, the next time you meet a successful person, consider asking them about the systems and habits that enabled them to achieve happiness. Although every situation is different, you may pick up some ideas you can actually use to start building your own systems and habits.
Either way, remember friends, it’s not about the miles – it’s about the smiles. So, if your current situation doesn’t allow you to leave base camp, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, work on creating a system that allows you to be grateful for what you have and get you primed to hit the road when circumstances allow.
And if that doesn’t work, consider listening to the Fruit Bats singing their song “Dolly.” It’s a song that will be sure to get you moving and, perhaps more importantly, put a smile on your face.
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Having said that, I am interested to hear from you. Good, bad, or otherwise, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m the only person who will read your email and, as time allows, I’ll do my best, at a minimum, to personally acknowledge receipt.