Last week I fell into the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. I don’t like life hacks, and that is what I thought this book was about. Until I started reading it. I thought the title meant that the author has a three step process to achieving your goals, and that by atomic he meant: BOOM!
Not so much.
Atomic in the title, is referring to the millions of atoms that make up an object. He related it to humans and how goal setting works, likening atoms to the many small pieces that make up the behaviors, or systems as he calls them, that help us to achieve our goals.
A book about the process, now we are speaking the same language!
I have always said that goals are easy to set. It would take me an abacus to count the number of people I know who have signed up for something big, like a 70.3 or an Ironman, who for whatever reason just can’t make it to the starting line. I am always interested in what separates those people from the people who do make it.
It’s not career or lifestyle. It’s not that triathletes all have oodles of time on their hands. I have trained with and raced with surgeons who work on call, teachers, attorneys who handle cases that require insane preparation time, I have worked with so many professionals who work in fields that from the outside don’t seem to have any give.
But those people, they have the right systems in place.
“We don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.”
That resonated with me. Often big goals are set with the hope that the goal will force one into a new system of habits, scare them into getting the work done, change who they are.
Clear suggests that “Goals are about the results you want to achieve, systems are the process that lead to the results.” He even goes so far as to suggest forgetting about the goal (in a sense) once it’s set. If we did that, and then focused on the systems, the day to day, the process, would we not still achieve that goal?
He uses the analogy of the airplane taking off from LAX. Changing the direction of the nose of the plane a few feet in either direction could mean the difference between landing in DC or New York City.
If we want to change the outcome Clear says, we have to change the system behind it.
Makes sense doesn’t it?
He pointed out “Winners and losers have the same goals.” and if you think about it, it’s true. What differentiates those two has everything to do with the systems.
As you look towards your season, or if you aren’t competing whatever you are working towards in your life, I highly recommend this book. I don’t think you will learn anything earth shattering. You will not learn anything that will make life easy in three simple steps.
What you will gain is insight into whether your life is set up to achieve what you truly want to achieve. Goals are fantastic, but eventually we reach that finish line, and get that medal. Then what?
As Clear says….. “We set goals to win the game. We build systems to continue to play the game”.