Setting Goals Is Not Enough – Here Is What Successful People Do Instead

Prevailing wisdom claims that the best way to achieve what we want in life—getting into better shape, being promoted, relaxing more and worrying less, spending more time with friends and family—is to set specific, actionable goals.

I’m a very action-focused and result-driven person which means that creating plans to achieve my goals was never the problem. Whether I achieved my goals or not, I always had measurable, specific and actionable goals in place.

But what I came to realize in recent years was that my likelihood of success had nothing to do with my goal setting at all. The same holds true for the many leaders I’ve coached. No matter what goal setting process they used, the chanced of them achieving the desired outcome had actually very little to do with how SMART the goals were.

Instead, I noticed that most people who were successful had the following two things honed in.

1. A routine to constantly be reminded of their goals

The gist of it is this: Many of us are great at setting goals. So, when we look closer of what makes people achieve their goals, it most often comes down to the frequency and intentionality of reviewing them.

So, let me ask you this: How often do you review your goals? With what purpose and intention do you review them?

When we’re busy and a lot of things at home and at work require your attention, it is very easy to take the eyes off of your goals and focus on what seems most important at the moment. 

But we know that when we don’t pay attention to where we want to go (i.e. our goals), we will lose sight of it. The goals will basically escape our mind. And when they do, they don’t serve us as a roadmap, as a motivation, as a tool to envision and to evaluate if we’re on track or not.

Reviewing your goals frequently (daily or at least weekly) will make you a lot more likely to implement the actions necessary to achieve them. Especially when it comes to actions that push you out of your comfort zone!

I’ve cultivated the habit of writing down my goals every single day and it’s what navigates me through the day, keeps my motivation going, batteries charged, and my decisions in line with the mission I’m on.

It’s been transformative and I invite you to give it a try for yourself. Start with doing it for 7 days and then review what’s changed for you during that time period.

2. A clear system to follow

The second thing that I see successful leaders do on a consistent basis is to follow a clear system and to pay close attention to it.

For example, if you’re a team leader for a group of engineers your system is about how you hire and retain high performers, how you test new ideas, how you prioritize work, how you help your team to resolve problems, etc.

No matter what goals you set, if you have a solid system of execution and constantly aim to up-level your game, you’d achieve big things. Wouldn’t you agree?

I’m not saying that goals are useless. Not at all in fact. But goals are for setting direction and systems are for making progress. So, in addition to thinking about your goals, spend an equal amount of time and effort designing and improving your systems.

Take a moment right now to think about your system that is the driving force behind your achievements. Then consider 3 to 5 things that you already know you could improve on to help you build a more solid system.

Take action today to get better in these areas. This will have a significant impact on your ability to reach your goals.


PS: If you need help in getting clarity on your goals or your system to high performance or if you’re committed to becoming the best leader you can be, then let’s have a talk. Click here to apply.

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