Changes usually do not occur all of a sudden. Even if they seem unexpected, they are in fact a result of continuous preparations, some smaller shifts in one’s way of thinking, or based on other premises. At the same time, there necessarily exists a trigger that launches the process of changes; this can be anything, starting from an event and up to a new thought. For me, such a trigger was the article “Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This,” written by the author and businessman James Clear.
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Clear believes goal setting may deal more harm than favor. Instead, he offers an original approach for organizing one’s life through creating systems instead of setting goals. A system is a sequence of actions you repeat in order to move in a chosen direction. According to Clear, if I got his idea correctly, focusing on the process of movement is more productive and effective than focusing on goals, because it is the movement that is crucial for achieving goals.
For example, if your goal is to collect an extra $1,000 by the end of the year, your system might include slightly increasing your monthly income (through regular freelancing, for example). If you want to win a competition, your system is to train regularly and persistently. There seems to be no difference, but in fact it is huge. When you focus on a process instead of a goal, you free yourself from the constant stress and craving for immediate results, the urge to try to control outcomes that do not depend on you, and the “yo-yo” effect, when a person feels stressed after reaching a goal, as there is nothing else to strive for.
The changes in my way of thinking started when I correlated this article with the philosophy of “Kaizen,” or the Japanese practice of constant improvement: small daily changes or improvements lead to more results than titanic efforts in an attempt to reach your entire goal all at once. Then I correlated these observations with the way I usually tried to make myself do something. “I need to improve my Japanese speaking skills by the end of the year.” After this, I made my way through a couple of weeks of attempts to study and practice regularly, organize my time, and give up some activities in favor of my goal. Yet after these attempts, I usually quit my efforts.
Kaizen, combined with the article by James Clear, gave me another perspective. I discovered it is much more effective for me to set a general direction, and make small steps that do not require effort. I have already improved my Japanese skills due to the simple fact that something is better than “all or nothing.” When I have five to 10 free minutes, I use my smartphone to learn a couple of new words. When I am on public transport, I read a page or two of any comprehensible text in Japanese. When I cook food at home, I use free minutes to learn a new grammar rule. Sometimes my “classes” take just five minutes per day. But there is still a result, and I achieved it much faster and easier than if I would force myself to reach the set goal.
Recently, I have started to apply this approach in other spheres of my life. Rollerskating, job performance, relationships, sports, doing something new or something I am not good at. It turned out the type of activity does not matter; what matters the most is the system and small steps in the chosen direction.
Clear, James. “Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.” Entrepreneur. N.p., 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2014. <http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230333>.
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