Don’t just set goals, set systems.

Goal Setting Is a Hamster Wheel. Learn to Set Systems Instead. | Adam Alter | Big Think

If you already watched this video, you know what the heading meant. I wanted to share this message with you because I think you can benefit from it too. As we all share this habit of setting goals, because that is how we were taught as a method to live life successfully. But as described by Mr. Alter here so wisely, it is a failed system. It has inherent design flaws. You fail until you reach the anti-climax of achieving your goal. But even that is not enough, you are never satisfied. Even worse, now your hunger is increased and you set an even bigger goal, meaning longer period of failure. So, what is actually this magical system of System setting that overcomes these flaws?

System setting

System is, simply put, a habit.

Anything you do repeatedly, over a period of time, becomes a habit. In order to achieve a goal, you break that into smaller, daily steps and do that regularly. I mentioned about this small step in my earlier blog about Optimising our Ordinary lives.

Mindset shift

The challenge for you is not to define smaller, daily, doable steps to get to a goal but to forget about the goal altogether.

If you have to complete a project at work in a week, you can define smaller steps in that project, and do them daily and you would be surprised how natural it was to be on time, without stress. Of course, it is more complicated than that because there are other people who do not care for your system and there are people who will keep messing with your schedule. But if you are focused on doing that one thing daily, nothing can stop you from being on time.

Prioritise: how to make a task list

When you have created your daily habit but still have a lot of other tasks in a day, write them down. These can be anything, related or unrelated tasks. This list will protect your habit and keep you on the track.

Then, mark all the tasks you have to do today, another group for tomorrow and the rest of the items in another group. The first group can be named A, the other B and the third, C. Now in group A, mark the task you must do first as 1, making this task A1. Then mark the next important task as A2 and so on until all the tasks in group A have been assigned a number. This is the proposed order of doing things. Now do the same for group B and then for group C. Hence, now you have prioritised all the tasks that you are supposed to do today and in near future. Try to make this list as exhaustive and inclusive as possible. Include every task, even if it is taking out the garbage because this will remove unknown and unscheduled tasks from your planning and give you greater control over your day.

Try to do this at least once a week in the beginning. Not every day is as thrilling as today and some days you might wanna relax and let loose. This list-making method is an absolute hero at taking care of everything, so use it as frequently as you need it.


Changing yourself takes courage before anything because you have to accept that you are not perfect and have a flaw. Be a gentle critic of yourself. Then, once you accept flaws in your methods, you can change. And some of the information above may help you do it.

Hope this was helpful to you.

Optimising our ordinary lives

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Let us have a conversation about optimising your life. To set the mood, let me put on some Gandalf style declaration: “this article is not about becoming great or achieving something extraordinary in your life. It is about living an ordinary life to the fullest”.

All right, mood set. I will now proceed with my monologue, like an overconfident villain explaining his plan to his captor who will eventually find a loophole in that plan and eventually kick his butt. But my monologue will not end in a butt kicking, instead it will end in lifting that butt and putting it somewhere useful.

Also. Talk to me. Answer my questions in your words in your head before reading ahead every time a question pops up.

What is a small step ?

There is huge power in small, consistent actions. Tiny drops of water can overtime carve mountains. One breath at a time is enough to keep us alive. One day at a time lived adds up to a lifetime. Each meaningful step completes one part of the journey. Anything you want to do or have, can be broken down to small very do-able steps. This is the small steps I am talking about.

Why should I take these small steps ?

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If you are human, your belly size will start expanding with affluence. If you have money, your money will eventually run out. If you are in a relationship, you will eventually disagree on something. If you like gadgets, you want to buy the new iPhone. These all examples illustrate one single fact. I like iPhone. And also, that even living an ordinary life requires keeping up with the changes around us. This keeping up with life requires calibration of our habits and routines and optimising your resources such as time and money to the best of your advantage. The ordinary and extraordinary life just differs in the frequency of calibration and optimisation. So, did you get your answer ? My answer is, to keep up with life and if possible, be prepared for the coming changes.

How to create a small step ?

Human mind is unique. Our vision, the ability to imagine multiple futures for us sets us apart from rest of the life on Earth. I can not think of any other animal being able to imagine an alternate ending of Avengers: Endgame where Antman goes all diabolical over Thanos. Can you imagine your cat pointing towards a new nap pillow she really likes. No. We can imagine futures. So, how this juicy knowledge nugget helps us ?

You can imagine what you want. You can imagine yourself with six-pack abs. You can imagine yourself writing a book. You can imagine yourself retiring from a job at the age of 30. All sorts of amazing things. And then there are those non-goal goals of keeping up with life, remember, like keeping fit with age ? So, we can imagine a future, where we are up to date with the challenges of the life and if required, we can imagine additional wishes. Because we are not boring ass robots but interesting, sexy ass humans.

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And after you have imagined yourself a future, you can now trace it back to your present situation to chart out a path. First, you need to locate, where you are. What is your present waist size ? How much writing have you done so far ? How many sources of passive income have you created so far ? Second, calculate what do you require to reach your end goal. How much weight do I need to loose, how much do I need to write, how many sources of passive income do I need to create ? And please do not limit your imagination to my examples. These are just illustrations to guide your thought process. I am just the train conductor, you can take any passenger with you on this journey.

How often should I repeat the step ?

Past exists in memories. Future doesn’t exist yet. Present exists in a day.

A day is the smallest unit of life. An hour is too small, a year too long. Biologically, we are programmed to wake up with the sunlight and go to sleep with the advent of darkness. During a day, we have periods of sharp concentration and high energy and then contrasting periods of lethargy. There are periods when we want to socialise, and then those where we just want to be with ourselves. So, in essence, a day is a representative slice of the full spectrum of our life.

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The best way to optimise a process is to tweak its smallest unit. So, my suggestion is to do a small step everyday. Workout for 20 minutes everyday to reach from a 40 inch waist to 28 inch six-pack. Save €100 each month to buy that iPhone next year. Make a part of your tube video daily to put up 2 videos a week to create a sustainable passive income source from YouTube. The path may seem exhausting but the alternative is hard too.

How to keep myself on the path ?

This is where motivation meets grit. This is where life takes a turn for better. This is where you live. You have to balance your motivation and discipline to stay on your path. Motivation is like taking the first sip of hot coffee, which will slap you to attention. Discipline is like drinking the whole cup of that bitter coffee because you know you know you need it.

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To invoke motivation towards your goal, put up a picture of your imagined future everywhere you can. And don’t overdo it, just good enough to remind you of the goal but not enough for people to call you a psycho. Write your goal as a statement and paste it above your bathroom mirror. Do not stick it above your laptop or somewhere in your constant view because then you will just learn to ignore it like you ignore a Microsoft update notification.

But the main driving force of success is discipline. Motivation is overrated. It is sheer grit and determination to do the necessary that takes one person places. But no one is motivated 27×7. Discipline gets the job done. The best way I found to install discipline in myself is to make the clock my drillmaster. I schedule my tasks so that I know when to start a task and when to stop. I suggest you to do the same and schedule your one small step at a fixed time of the day. Do not bother about arranging everything in your day with fixed timings but focus on doing that one thing at a fixed time.

What if I need help in any of this ?

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I am not inventing these ideas here, people have already done all of these things and much more. And these same people can help you too. Just look at their journey and examine it with our questionnaire.

  • My imagined future: What do I want ?
  • My present: What is my situation now?
  • My pathway: How to reach from my present situation to my imagined future?
  • My daily small step: What change do I need to make in my daily routine?

And commit yourself to taking that one small step each day for your calculated period of time. That’s it. You can now peacefully live a perfectly ordinary life with your imagined future. Isn’t that a nice feeling? Being stress free from uncertainty and controlling some part of your life.

Mic drop

Everybody has answers, they just don’t have the right questions sometimes. I hope these are the right questions for you, right now. If not, let me know what are your worries and challenges today and maybe, together we can find their solutions.

Yasir out.