Artwork for podcast Wisdom-Trek © - Archive 4
Day 908 – Goals vs. Systems – Ask Gramps
13th July 2018 • Wisdom-Trek © - Archive 4 • H. Guthrie Chamberlain, III
00:00:00 00:11:50

Share Episode


Wisdom-Trek / Creating a Legacy

Welcome to Day 908 of our Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.

This is Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom

Goals vs. Systems – Ask Gramps
Pushing Through - Ask Gramps 1

Thank you for joining us for our five days per week wisdom and legacy building podcast. This is Day 908 of our trek, and it is time for our Philosophy Friday series. Each Friday we will ponder some of the basic truths and mysteries of life and how they can impact us in creating our living legacy.

As we continue on this trek called life, sometimes we have questions about life, so our Friday trek is a time when we can “Ask Gramps.” Gramps will answer questions that you would like to ask your dad or granddad, but for whatever reason are unable to. No matter how old we are, I know that all of us would like the opportunity to ask dad or gramps questions about life in many areas. We will address areas such as finances, relationships, health/fitness, business/work, home repairs/renovations, seasons of life, spiritual/Biblical questions, and any others areas that come our way.

As your fellow sojourner and mentor on this trek that we call life, it is Gramps’s goal to provide you with practical wisdom and advice about any area of life. It is crucial that I receive a constant flow of questions, so please submit your questions to And Gramps will answer your questions on our Friday podcast.

We are broadcasting from our studio at The Big House in Marietta, Ohio. I have always been a proponent of setting goals or milestones in life in order to achieve desired outcomes in all areas of life. As I have matured and grown in wisdom and in life, I have realized that there is actually something more important than setting goals. So the question today is…

“Hey Gramps, I desire to reach milestones in all areas of my life, such as spiritually, physically, financially and relationally. I have tried to set goals but seem to quickly lose focus and rarely achieve them. What can I do?”

Goals vs. Systems

We all have things that we want to achieve in our lives — getting into better shape, building a successful business, raising a wonderful family, writing a best-selling book, winning a championship, and so on.

For most of us, the path to those things starts by setting a specific and actionable goal. At least, this is how I approached life when I was younger. I would set goals for business growth, for an exercise regimen, for devotional time, and for my relationships.

What I have come to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.

It all comes down to the difference between goals and systems.

· The Difference Between Goals and Systems

What’s the difference between goals and systems?

  • If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
  • If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
  • If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule of several month preparations starting small and incrementally increasing.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales, marketing, and financial process.

Now for the really interesting question:

If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?

For example, if you desired to run a marathon in 12 months and you focused on running a little bit each day while incrementally increasing the distance each week, would you still get results? Indeed you would.

As a personal example, this is my 908th episode of my Wisdom-Trek Podcast over the past three years. The average length of these short episodes is around 1200 words. This means that I have written over 1 million words in the past three years. I didn’t have that as an initial goal, rather it was my desire to be faithful and consistent in writing and recording a podcast five days a week. One of my “goals” for the future is to write space-based Christian fantasy novels in both print and audio.

Since the typical book is about 50,000 to 60,000 words, I realized that I have already written enough to fill over 16 books in the past three years. If I switch my focus of the podcast writing –the system I have in place of writing 1,000 words or more per day – that system will enable me to complete the goal of writing several chronicles of my spaced-based novel.

All of this is a bit of a surprise because I never set a goal to produce nearly 1,000 podcasts or write a million words. I didn’t measure my progress in relation to some benchmark. I have a loose guideline for a word count of 600 for my short episodes, and 1500 for my longer episodes, but that is just a guideline.

What I did focus on was producing five podcasts per week. Two are about 5 minutes, and three are about 10 minutes in length. This is the determining factor on the word count. After sticking to that schedule for over three years, the result is over 1 million written and spoken words. I focused on my system and the process of doing the work. In the end, the results speak for themselves.

Let’s talk about three more reasons why you should focus on systems instead of goals.

1. Goals reduce your current happiness.

When you’re working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.”

The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next goal is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”

SOLUTION: Commit to a process, not a goal.

Choosing a big goal puts a huge burden on you. We do this to ourselves all the time. We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight, to succeed in business, to have a successful marriage, or to write a best-selling novel.

Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals.

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance or end goal, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

2. Goals are strangely at odds with long-term progress.

You might think your goal will keep you motivated over the long-term, but that’s not always true.

Consider someone desiring to lose 25 pounds. Many people will work hard for months limiting what they eat or jumping on the newest diet, but as soon as they reach their goal, they soon gain the weight back. Their goal was to lose 25 pounds, and now that they have reached that goal it is no longer there to motivate them. When all of your hard work is focused on a particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it?

This can create a type of “yo-yo effect” where people lose weight just to gain it back again. This type of cycle makes it difficult to build upon your progress in the long-term. 

SOLUTION: Release the need for immediate results.

Losing weight as with nearly any objective must first begin in your mind, which requires a lifestyle change. The goal or milestone in this scenario is to reach your ideal weight range and maintain it for life. This will require more than just a goal, but establishing an entire system of eating, exercising, and sleeping. This requires a lifestyle change that has no expiration date.

In a situation like the one above, a goal-based mentality will tell you to finish the “diet” once you reach your goal. Systems-based thinking is never about hitting a particular number; it’s about sticking to the lifestyle change process with a changed mindset. That’s why systems are more valuable than goals. Goals are about the short-term result. Systems are about the long-term life-changing process. In the end, the process always wins.

3. Goals suggest that you can control things that you have no control over.

You can’t predict or control much of the future although most of us desire to do so.

Every time we set a goal, we try to predict and then control our future. We try to plan out where we will be and when we will make it there. We try to predict how quickly we can make progress, even though we have no idea what circumstances or situations will arise along the way.

SOLUTION: Build feedback loops.

When you begin to change your lifestyle, you need to establish feedback loops that allow you to have checkpoints on your progress. Feedback loops are important for building good systems because they allow you to keep track of many different pieces without feeling the pressure to predict what is going to happen with everything. Forget about predicting or controlling the future and build a system that can signal when you need to make adjustments.

· Fall In Love With Systems

None of this is to say that goals are useless. However, I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.

Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually, a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the lifestyle change process is what makes the difference.

The core of this information has been sourced and proven through extensive research and condensed by James Clear @

Systems take dedication and work, but are so worth it. This reminds me of Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

Next week we will have a new question to Ask Gramps. If you have a question you would like answered, please email it to, and Gramps will answer it on our Friday podcast with wisdom and philosophy that Gramps has gained over his years of experience and study. I know you will find these insights interesting, practical, and profitable in living a rich and satisfying life.

Our next trek is Mediation Monday where we will help you reflect on what is most important in life. So encourage your friends and family to join us and then come along on Monday for another day of our Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.

If you would like to listen to any of the past 907 daily treks or read the associated journals, they are all available at I encourage you to subscribe to Apple Podcast or Google Podcast so that each day’s trek will be downloaded automatically.

Thank you for allowing me to be your guide, mentor, and most of all your friend as I serve you through this Wisdom-Trek podcast and journal.

As we take this trek together, let us always:

  1. Live Abundantly (Fully)
  2. Love Unconditionally
  3. Listen Intentionally
  4. Learn Continuously
  5. Lend to others Generously
  6. Lead with Integrity
  7. Leave a Living Legacy Each Day

I am Guthrie Chamberlain reminding you to Keep Moving Forward, Enjoy Your Journey, and Create a Great Day Everyday! See you on Monday!