Written by Anna, Core Fitness Trainer

I listened to a podcast recently with James Clear and Craig Groeschel discussing James Clears book called Atomic Habits. In this podcast they unpacked the relationship between habits and goals. They discussed how small habits or your everyday mundane tastes multiply and in turn create your identity. This concept really got my wheels turning. It made me take a deeper look at the goals I set for myself and how I achieve or don’t achieve them.

Recently, I enrolled in a course to earn another certification. My goal was to pass the course and pass the exam on the first attempt.  But just stating that goal does not mean that that is my focus. The goal is to pass the exam on the first try, but breaking that goal down on how to achieve it, is what James calls a system.

We use systems to help us achieve the goals we are pursuing. For example, my goal was to pass this course and pass the exam on the first attempt. So breaking that down even further into my system would be, I need to study x amount of hours a week, or I need to read x amount of chapters a week. If I was having trouble understanding the material I would refocus my systems by breaking it down even more. I need to create flashcards in order to memorize these vocabulary words. I need to talk through different scenarios with real live people in order to apply what I was learning.

Refocusing my system was what I needed to do in order to achieve my goal, not change my goal. By not focusing on the goal of passing the exam but rather focusing on my system, it enabled me to develop habits that resulted in me passing the exam and earning the certification.

Another example that James refers to in this podcast is winning a game of basketball. The goal is to have the best score on the scoreboard but if you stare at the scoreboard the entire time you will probably perform terribly. If you didn’t look at the scoreboard at all but rather focused on the process or system like running the plays and being in the right positions, along with preparing for the next play, then most likely you will achieve the goal of winning.

James has a very powerful phrase that I think if we evaluate it in our own lives we will focus more on the system we have in place rather than on the goal.

“We don’t rise to the level of the goal but we fall to the level of the system.”

What are your goals and what are the systems you have in place to help you achieve those?