Don’t Create Goals — The Real Way To Achieve Your Dreams.

I was a goal-setter when I was younger. When I created goals, I initially felt a sense of confidence in completing them. Goal setting has always been hailed as the tool everyone should use to achieve their dreams and aspirations. 

But why?

Goal setting is not the most efficient. 

Think about it – we often create goals out of a flaw or something unhealthy to our body or mind. But it’s something we know we should change. So a goal is formed – “I’m gonna lose 30 pounds”, “I’m going to stop smoking.”, or even “I want to save $10,000 this year.” We create them out of ignorance. Let me repeat that – Our goals are built out of ignorance. We often make goals without considering all the challenges and roadblocks to achieving them. Then, when we don’t achieve what we want, we feel a sense of failure, embarrassment, and even shame. Goals without structure are just failed promises to ourselves and create the space for excuses and justifications for why we didn’t attain the goal we set. 

The Evolution Of Goals

In recent years, people have started using SMART goals to achieve them. SMART is an abbreviation for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. SMART Goals are a great way to articulate and wrap language around your goals. Finding the answers to each of these topics helps create a tangible goal that feels more attainable. 

However, there are several touchpoints where SMART goals need to be revised. Most plans still don’t address the variables in our lives that are entirely out of our control. I also find a flaw in the strongest argument for SMART goals – by wrapping more language around our goal, we are leaving less room for new ideas to the ideation of our aspiration. What if we discover something new in pursuing this more suitable goal? Do we let go of our goal and just create a new one? How do I know I am not getting distracted? 

Goals don’t help the more significant issue that most people experience with their dreams and aspirations. Instead, they fall short of making our dreams feel like they are within reach. 

So, if not goals? What?

Start With A Value Audit

Well, the answer to achieving our dreams requires us to build what we can call a – dream profile. To do that, we need to reflect. Of course, reflection is a very raw, uncomfortable, and scary thing at times. But, with reflection on where we have been, there is a way for us to determine what we are doing in our lives already that are either helping us or hurting us in achieving our dreams.

Simply put, we need to do a value audit in all aspects of our lives. 

Reflection is an active process and activity. It’s not something you are thinking about in the back of your mind. To make reflection effective, you must create a dedicated space and time. So pull up a chair to a table, get a pen and paper and take a deep dive into all the different aspects of your life. 

Here at Blue Marble, we focus on five main points for people to focus on when reflecting. Our Framework for Reflection is as follows —

  1. Experiential – the impact of key moments and experiences in our lives
  2. Physical – relationship to our physical body and the environment we live in 
  3. Personal – what our actions reveal about our priorities, values, and beliefs
  4. Financial – awareness of the impact that money has on our lives
  5. Relational – the quality of our relationships and how we show up for others.

My colleague, Henry Davis, wrote a great article about our reflection framework. I highly recommend you read it to learn more about it. For our purposes, we need to reflect as a form of auditing ourselves. We need to find where in our daily lives we are wasting time on things that don’t add value to our lives, dreams, and aspirations. All of us at Blue Marble tend to do this life audit annually, and it’s always shocking to see how much wasted time is spent on things that don’t truly matter to us. Reflection is critical for creating a firm foundation to build our dreams. So, do the work. Start with a real reflection session with yourself if you haven’t already. It can do wonders for your life in finding those wasteful areas. 

Engineer a New Foundation

A lot of video work I have done in my career is in the architecture industry. I’ve made videos with Gensler, SOM Engineering, and Hunter Douglas Architectural on the buildings they have designed and built. When they reach the building site for the first time, they will study the soil and rock below their feet to build the right foundation. Not all foundations are made the same. Some require different materials, layouts, and engineering to be able to build the skyscraper they designed. From that foundation, they build up. Using concrete, steel, and other materials, they keep adding more and more floors to the building.

With each floor, the construction team gets more and more efficient. They can build faster to the top of the building. There may be mismeasurements or mistakes as they build up, but because of the strong foundation they established, they can explore different adjustments to continue building. Some of the issues they may encounter in the build aren’t fully understood until they start building. 

We need to view our dreams as building a skyscraper. We need to build up layer by layer to reach our goals. Dreams are built by just all-of-a-sudden making an effort to do something different. They’re built by establishing a structure and system in your work, creating habits, and constantly re-establishing your focus on the things that are valuable to you. Reaching your dreams requires habits and systems, not goals. Or, at the very least, applying systems and habits to how you will achieve said goals. 

The Benefits Of Creating a System

Oftentimes, you’ll hear entrepreneurs on how much they love the process of working. Gary Vaynerchuk talks a lot about this. When he first moved to the United States from Russia, his family couldn’t afford a jersey of his beloved football team, the New York Jets. His dream is to go from not even being able to afford a jersey to buying the entire team. Fans and entrepreneurs will ask him constantly about this dream of his and ask him when he will be able to buy the team. He responds almost always with the same response. He will always go into how much he loves the process. 

But why? How could someone love the process of work so much?

It’s the rewards you get with establishing systems. Establishing systems and habits in our lives has many benefits to our day-to-day lives while striving for greater effort in reaching our goals. 

For example, four-star general Admiral William McRaven wrote a book titled “Make Your Bed.” In it and his now famous graduation speech, he talks about how impactful the simple act of making your bed each morning is. 

“Every morning in SEAL training, my instructors, who were at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room, and the first thing they do is inspect my bed. If I did it right, the corners would be square, the covers would be pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard, and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack. It was a simple, mundane task at best, but we were required to make our bed to perfection every morning.”

Admiral William McRaven

What makes this so impactful? Admiral McRaven talked about the further impact making your bed each morning can bring. 

“It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs. But the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over. If you made your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter.”

Admiral William McRaven

This small task of making your bed gives you the satisfaction of a win. When you feel a win and accomplishment, it makes you more motivated to keep this feeling alive. It keeps your dreams alive. Let’s say you want to write a book. Rather than seeing it as a massive 50,000-word document you’re hoping to be published, let’s break it down into something more manageable. Writing 500 words a day is a more straightforward daily win. That’s a lengthy email! Establishing 500 words daily as a habit, not a goal, is important. 

There are several ways to make these habits easier to establish in your everyday life. “Atomic Habits” author James Clear writes in his book about several ways to make the habits to establish in your life more attractive. One of the most effective ways I have found is the five-minute rule. This is something that I use almost every day for my daily schedule. If I do not feel like I want to make a habit, I do it for five minutes. Only five minutes. If I’m not feeling it for five minutes, I don’t continue. However, every time I get into it for five minutes, it’s a lot easier to keep going rather than to stop and find something else to do. This is an easy win to accomplish daily and can ultimately lead you to that end goal you’ve always wanted – finishing that book. 

Establishing habits around what you find most valuable in life can also reduce the toxic inner chatter you constantly experience. We’re talking to ourselves constantly throughout the day. And that inner voice in your head can be your biggest critic, sinic, and perfectionist when trying to accomplish something. Yes, I compiled perfectionism in this criticism and sinicum because that’s what it is – a defensive measure our inner voice uses to prevent us from continuing to accomplish what we want in life. This inner voice will be the one that tells us we failed and can keep us in that negative state of mind when we come up with a new idea or thought. Ethan Kross writes a lot about our inner voice in his book titled “Chatter.” There is also a great video interviewing Ethan about his book. He talks about the Chatter Toolkit, which lays out different ways to regain control of your inner voice. One of the first ways we can help control our inner voice is through rituals. Small daily rituals can help manage that inner voice and prevent it from controlling you because you are creating opportunities to control different elements of your environment. 

Optimism is when your inner voice fails to control you, and so you’re able to enable yourself to find success through your habits each day. 

Creating Your Habits

I tend to focus on creating good habits in my life and have found that if I focus on establishing new productive and healthy habits, the old unhealthy habits are easier to stop. However, when I find myself breaking habits or excusing myself from doing my healthy habits, the unhealthy habits and negative thoughts creep back into life. 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear writes about the Habit Loop, which breaks down each habit into an infinite loop. We’re specifically going to focus on creating good habits for the sake of argument and not dive into how to break bad habits. They are –

The Problem Phase – 

  • Cue – Make it obvious. Make the steps you need to do clear. 
  • Craving – Make it attractive. Find ways to make it interesting and to you or fun. 

The Solution Phase – 

  • Response – Make it easy. Create an easy entry point into the habit. 
  • Reward – Make it satisfying. Create small rewards after the completion of the habit. 

Creating A System

A system for me is often a queue or cluster of habits I’ve established daily that I do back-to-back. For instance, I have a morning system, a mid-day system, and an evening system. I leave time between these systems for the variables of my work day, like phone calls, meetings, or work challenges. However, I rarely break the three different systems in my day. They keep me motivated and craving more work. For example, here is my current list of current habits that make up my mid-day system – 

  • Habit = Answering ALL My Morning Emails
  • Habit = Read At Least One Chapter In A Book
  • Habit = Write 1,000 Words
    • Reward Once Complete = I get to watch the news and go on social media for around 30 minutes.

These habits in this system have been growing too. For instance, my habit used to be only writing 200 words a day, but in recent months I’ve been able to increase that. I keep these interesting for myself too. I don’t put pressure on ever finishing a book, but only reading a chapter or two of a book that interests me that day. Eventually, I find myself finishing more books each month that way. Even with my morning emails – I will start by answering the ones I’m most excited to respond to, then since I’m already there and close to the finish line, It’s easier to address the more difficult emails I get each day. 

These systems change based on my interests and the dreams I have for myself. Unless I find more value in adding or removing one of these habits, I won’t change them because they help me complete all the larger projects and aspirations I have in my life.

Books I’d recommend on to further your journey to creating systems: Discipline Is Destiny by Ryan Holiday, Chatter by Ethan Kross, & Atomic Habits by James Clear


Rather than working out what goals you want to achieve as we go into 2023, take a systemic approach. Take a look at what you are doing currently that isn’t adding value towards the goals you want to achieve, and lean into creating a system in your day that can contribute more value towards your ultimate goal. 

Use these systems as your rewards system to fall in love with the process of achieving what you want. Just like that cliche – It’s about the journey, not the destination. Create and grow the habits in your daily life that not only contribute to your end goal but add value and rewards to your life. Anyone can become a winner if they view the work they complete as an accomplishment or achievement. Don’t set goals. Create systems. 

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