Goals Are Completely Useless Without This

Filed in Living by on November 29, 2013 0 Comments

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I often observe family and friends declaring some new goal they have recently set for themselves. The enthusiasm they exude at the prospect of achieving their “perfect self” is always quite genuine and compelling. How can you not get caught up in their enthusiasm? Well, being a Type A, I am pretty good at “handicapping” the likelihood of their ever actually accomplishing their new objective, which often quells my enthusiasm for them. All I need to do is ask one simple question: “How do you plan to achieve it?” The response to that tells me pretty much everything I need to know about their actual prospects.

“I’m going to lose 20 lbs. before bikini season!” a friend enthusiastically declares. I ask how they plan to go about that. “For the first time, I’m going to join a gym!”

Sorry, but that bikini will likely be stretched over the same fat rolls as it was last year.

“I am going to retire early. My goal is to retire when I am 55!” How so? “I’m just going to save as hard as I can, starting tomorrow!”

This person will likely still be working when they are Social Security and Medicare-eligible, or perhaps, beyond.

So what do these well-intentioned people need to be successful? What is the missing ingredient for them to actually be able to achieve their goals?

You might answer “discipline,” or “realism,” or “passion,” or even “smarts,” and while all of these are also helpful, there is one thing they simply cannot be successful without: a system.

You absolutely need to have an effective system, or process, to achieve something. Your system is a “tried and true” methodology that will ensure your success.

I will use a couple of examples to illustrate.

When I was working, I wanted to save money so I could be financially secure. I had a goal of saving $1 million by the time I was 50. (As it turns out, I easily beat that goal when my company was sold at age 46, but that’s beside the point, since it was a lucky and unforeseen occurrence.) My process was as follows. At about age 30 I started by saving 10% of my pay. Then I decided that every time I received a raise, whether it was a normal annual increase or a promotional raise, I would save most of that extra income on top of my current savings rate. Also, every bonus I received would be saved, less maybe a minor indulgence to celebrate my hard work and good fortune, like a nice dinner out.

This system worked extremely well. Prior to the fortuitous event of our company being sold, I was already on track to have $1.2 million saved by age 50, beating my goal. When the sale of the company happened, it was a nice, big cherry on top!

One more example. Everyone I know who is older and who has been able to maintain a healthy weight has a system for doing so. Each and every one. I have gotten into the habit of asking these healthy people, “So, how do you maintain your weight?” I have received as many different responses as people I have questioned, but they all follow their own, specific process. Some use very strict portion control, and allow themselves a “cheat” food every now and then. Some simply eat 5 or 6 small, balanced meals each day. Some favor protein consumption, and eat very few carbs and fats. Some exercise extremely hard, training for something like a marathon or bodybuilding competition, and eat almost anything they want (within reason) because they burn so many calories in training. The different systems used are almost infinite!

But they all have a system.

So when you set a goal, give a tremendous amount of thought to what system you will use to achieve it. You may need to do some reading or internet research, and, if it is your “first rodeo,” you will likely need some trial and error to find the right approach for you.

Whether or not you ever actually achieve your goal depends entirely on it. This is normally where I might wish you luck, but if you have the right system, you won’t need luck!

About the Author ()

TIM MCINTYRE retired in 2004 from his position as president of Applied Systems after facilitating a successful sale of the company. At only forty-six years old, he made the unusual decision to fully retire to pursue other interests and simply enjoy free time. As a hard-driving Type A personality, this turned out to be a significant challenge for the Notre Dame and University of Chicago-educated MBA, CPA, and Certified Cash Manager.

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