Motivation is what gets you started,
Habit is what keeps you going.
– Jim Rohn
Part 1. Why choose Goals over Systems?
We are all familiar with the concept of setting goals in order to gain the things we want.
SMART goals are all about being making goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound, so we are able to implement daily steps in order to achieve them.
Stretch goals challenge us to find solutions, see opportunities and grow in order to accomplish them.
However, ultimately it’s not our goals that grant us results, but the systems we employ.
The only real way to win or to thrive is to focus on getting better each day. That’s why we need to be process-focused instead of results-focused. Yes, the results will come, but only with the implementation of action steps that form our successful systems. In every sport the goal is to finish with the most points, but that does not come from watching the scoreboard, it come from implementing skill and effort.
Goals set our direction;
our systems are the course we follow.
In any sport or endeavours, ultimately the winners and the losers, the gold and the bronze medallist had the same goals. It was only through implementing a system of continuous small improvements that they achieved a different outcome.
When we set and achieve goals, the results are often only momentary. We might set a goal to tidy our houses, but once it’s clean and tidy it’s often only a matter of time before the clutter begins to gather again. Since we are treating a symptom, rather than the underlying cause, like our ongoing messy habits, results become only temporary. While by focusing on the systems level, we can offer permanent solutions.
Another way a goal-centric approach limits us is by placing our happiness in the future. We often say to ourselves “I’ll be happy when I lose this last stone of weight,” or “when I get that promotion, or earn X amount of money,” but when we get there we don’t feel fulfilled. This leaves us subject to the dualism of either achieving our goal and being successful or failing to achieve our goals and being disappointed. Either way we seem to lose, as we limit our view of happiness to only one scenario, when our lives are a constant flux and change.
By enjoying the process
we don’t have to wait
to give ourselves permission
to be happy.
Instead you can feel satisfied whenever your system is running, in small improvements, in daily adaptability.
This brings us to intrinsic vs. extrinsic goals, since when we are motivated by extrinsic goals such as winning a competition, once the race or competition is over, we cease to have a reason to train. Or once we lose X amount of amount, we cease to need to diet. That’s when we slip back into old habits once we achieve a goal, since without an intrinsic motivator there’s no reason to keep pushing forward once the external goal is achieved.
Long-term success is not about single achievement.
We need to dedicate ourselves to the cycle of refinement,
continuous adaptation and improvement of our systems.
In the end commitment to the process determines our progress.
Part 2. What systems do you use to progress?
After all: what gets measured gets managed.
We know the importance of habits and routine to create success, however when we get knocked out of our routines it can be easy to fall back on old unhealthy habits or simply press the pause button on our health and fitness altogether. But life doesn’t pause, and there’s never going to be a perfect time to start.
When we keep pressing pause our progress continually stalls, and we need even more motivation and activation energy to start up again.
Stress, change, upheaval, overwhelm and depression can all be contributing factors to a lack of motivation, making it difficult to keep to an exercise routine, eat nutritious foods, portion control, and keep up with other healthy habits and behaviours.
We employ systems in all aspects of our lives
in order to prioritise, and take effective action.
These systems often become subconscious routines, such as food shopping on a certain day, making a shopping list, and navigating the aisle in an order that makes sense to you.
However, when we experience change, we often get knocked out of our routines, and our systems get disrupted. As a result we can struggle to keep up with those consistent actions that felt effortless before, such as a fitness routine, sleep structure or productivity.
We might have a set routine, such as laying out our work clothes and packing our gym bag each evening, so that in the morning we wake up and are immediately triggered to want to do these things in the morning. We dress for work, we put our gym bag in the car, and we avoid excuses for not needing to work out. But when those routine triggers get disrupted, such as working from home, such as gyms being closed, we find ourselves perhaps with more time to exercise, but no motivation or willpower to want to. Instead we can lapse into binge-watching TV and snacking, reducing our daily activity levels whilst simultaneously increasing our calorie intake, which leads us straight into weight gain and lethargy.
Three of the biggest contributors to breaks with our routines are:
- The Impact of Stress – not only does it trigger our fight-or flight stress response, but it also shuts down the prefrontal cortex of our brains, responsible for thinking, planning and decision-making. Instead of being in our logical brains where we can act according to our priorities, we spend more time having an emotional response to our environments, making us feel more stressed and drained as a result.
- Limited Willpower – our energy for decision making is sapped throughout the day, so if our frontal cortex is already taxed, it will become exhausted that much quicker. Decision making becomes harder, especially when we are having to make so many different decisions when each day is unknown – such as who to reach out to and how, scheduling the kids’ lessons, deciding what bills to pay, whether to check the news, what foods to eat, and when to go out shopping so you can get the things you need. All of those little decisions add up and become more difficult, so by the evening we can often be left feeling exhausted.
Once we reach this stage where the prefrontal cortex
is fatigued we stop living in our logical brain,
and short-term gratification takes over.
Cue binge-watching TV, with a quick dinner, a couple of beers, and whatever snacks we have to hand.
- Loss of Anchor Habits – habits function in a loop, they begin with a cue that triggers the habit or behaviour and the resulting reward. The anchor or cue can function as the first domino in a sequence, which triggers a sequence of actions and forms our routine. Perhaps our first cue is our alarm clock, it signals for us to get out of bed and begin the day, perhaps we meditate or journal for five minutes, then we get the kids out of bed and make breakfast, then do the school run, before getting to work. If some of those dominos are taken out, such as leaving for the school run, or having to get the kids ready for a certain time, then other dominos and actions fall away too.
How do we repair our disrupted systems or create new routines?
1 – Re-evaluating Priorities
One response to sudden change and upheaval can be to ask: does any of this still matter?
As our lives change so do our prioritises, where before our priority might have been gaining lean muscle, it might now be looking after our family’s health and wellbeing, or managing the family income and bills.
By identifying what our top priorities are, what are the most important, we can work them into our daily routines.
2- Understanding What You Used To Do
By listing and understanding what habits we were doing consistently before, we can begin to decide how to rebuild or adapt them. Look at what your regular sleep routine used to be, or your process for meal prep, or creating healthy meals.
3- Deciding What You Need To Do Now
Take those aspects from your old routines that worked for you, and decide how to implement them now in order to create more security, a better morning routine and make it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
These three processes –
Evaluating, Understanding and Deciding
are key to creating better systems.
What we need to do now is shift our attention to the things that are important. Maybe we don’t need tobe goal-specific and measure and weigh out our food, but use a general system such as a portion control method instead. Maybe we don’t want to write down our sets and reps in our workout journal, but we want to focus on building a yoga and meditation practice instead. We have to accept where willpower is limited, and focus on building small, consistent action each day, even if that differs from day to day.
Since ultimately goals only set a direction, they allow us to plan for progress,
it’s the daily systems that we use and adapt that allow us to make progress.
If you need help Identifying Your Priorities,
and creating a better routine and daily system,
try our Free program in the just coach app:
To get started: Download the justcoach app from the mobile app store, register on the app and then AFTER registering, click this link on your phone –
Or alternatively, enter this manual code – 854236
Create a new schedule for yourself, by planning out your day, putting priorities at the start of the day, and stacking new habits onto existing ones. Test out the schedule, and review it each week. By continually going through this process of evaluating, understanding and deciding we can remain in control, reduce stress and become more resilient and adaptable.
We’ll be posting more about Choosing the right system for you,
and why we might need to shift our Focus to different aspects of our health and wellbeing,
and different ways to do it, such as:
> Deep Health Model
> Habit Wheel Model
Get in touch if you’d like more info about how to implement these into your life
If you’d like help with At Home Training
We can help build you a workout programme based around your goals, experience, and available equipment,
such as Resistance Band Workout Programs, or At-home Minimal Equipment Plans,
So you can progress, beat plateaus, and achieve new personal bests, all from the comfort of your home.
You can combine that with our other Online Coaching Programs to improve your health, body and mind, such as:
~Nutrition ~ Creating Healthy Eating Habits ~ Stop Snacking ~
~ Focusing on Deep Health ~ Creating a Habit Wheel ~
~ Improve Your Sleep ~ Creating Winning Daily Routines ~
to build a training system that works for you.
Check out some of our free resources: