Reveal Your Career’s True Potential: Transforming from Goals to Systems

Reading time: 3 minutes

From a young age, we are encouraged to set goals and work towards achieving them. Some goals are reached, while others remain unattained. Even when we set the most ambitious career goals, failure is still a possibility.

This notion intrigued James Clear, the author of ‘Atmoc Habits’. He realized that it wasn’t the specific goals set that mattered but rather the system used to pursue them.

But what distinguishes goals from systems?

Goals focus on the outcome and are future-oriented.

Systems pertain to the processes that lead to the outcome and operate in the present.

A system is a principle by which something is structured and organized, meaning that you consistently follow the same systematic approach.

Goal: Write a book.

System: Write one page every day.

Clear recommends concentrating not only on the end goal but also on daily self-improvement. While the goal provides direction, the primary focus lies on the system that leads there.

For example, a runner could set the ambitious goal of completing a marathon in under three hours. Alternatively, they could develop a system of training four to five times a week at a specific time.

Similarly, an individual might set the goal of advancing to a leadership position within five years. Instead, this person could establish a system to continuously enhance their leadership skills by attending monthly training sessions, scheduling regular mentoring sessions, and actively participating in strategic projects. This would be a system for career development.

When you concentrate on the system and work towards your goals daily, there is no end date. You integrate it permanently into your daily life. Goals serve as a framework with a predetermined end date, while systems involve daily actions without such an endpoint.

“Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous presuccess failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.”

(Scott Adams)

Problems with goals

  • When a goal is particularly challenging to achieve and there are no tangible signs of progress, it can lead to stress.
  • Sometimes, you cannot control the outcome of a goal due to changing circumstances.
  • Setting a goal doesn’t guarantee whether it will be achieved or not. Winners and losers can pursue the same goal.
  • Solving problems at the outcome level offers only temporary solutions. For instance, if the goal is to clean up your desk but you remain disorganized and don’t change your system, you’ll continually have to set the same goal.
  • It can be problematic when your happiness depends on achieving goals, as it can lead to a cycle of pursuing the next milestone. The happiness derived from achieving a goal often doesn’t last, and failure to reach a goal can make you feel like a failure.
  • If you focus too much on goal attainment, motivation can wane once the goal is reached. For instance, if you’re training for a marathon and cross the finish line, what motivates you to continue training?

Create your own system

Suppose you’re in the job search and want to find the perfect position by the end of the year. In that case, you need a system to effectively track your job application activities and monitor your job search progress.

To create a system, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What exactly do you want to achieve?
  • Why is this important?
  • When will you take action?
  • What needs to be planned in advance?
  • Is this a daily task?

You should regularly evaluate your system and adapt it to current conditions. As your system evolves, you’ll need to spend less time tracking your activities.


Here’s What Scott Adams Says About Goals (

James Clear: Atomic Habits. Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results

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