12 October 2013

Don't Snatch The Pebble, Grasshopper

Scott Adam's Secret of Success: Failure:

Throughout my career I've had my antennae up, looking for examples of people who use systems as opposed to goals. In most cases, as far as I can tell, the people who use systems do better. The systems-driven people have found a way to look at the familiar in new and more useful ways.
To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That's literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.
If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize that you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or to set new goals and re-enter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.
 Makes sense to me.

One example: debt elimination. If you're pursuing it, you're probably doing so because debt makes you unhappy.

As a goal, it can be done. And then what?

If it's a goal, you very well may reload yourself and pursue debt elimination again. So you become unhappy again so that you can be happy for a brief moment until you become unhappy again... That sucks.

You probably will incur debts again at a later date. That's a failure from the perspective of the goal-oriented approach. It's a mere event from the perspective of the system-driven approach.

If debt elimination is a byproduct of a system you build, and you consistently execute on that system, you don't have to think about it. It just happens. Your happiness will not be dependent on being debt free, but upon your tending to avoid it when possible, and to reduce and eliminate it when you can't avoid it.

Any wave is a tsunami in the case of the former; a wave may only rock your boat in the case of the latter, and a tsunami is actually a tsunami if one does come.

One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy. -- Aristotle

Goals are singular, finite things. They are inflexible, incapable of adaptation, can be knocked down, surpassed and diminished, etc. Whatever happiness they bring has an expiration date.

Systems can be perpetual, resilient,  and adaptable. Whatever happiness they bring is a byproduct, a "surplus" generated by a usefully functioning machine, if you will. It's an indication that the system works, and it can be maintained.

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