What is the Difference Between a Goal and a System?

JT - What is the Difference Between a Goal and a System

Recently I started Lead from Within One thing that comes up when I am coaching clients, is the difference between a goal and a task. So, in this post I wanted to share

  • What is a Goal?
  • What is a System?
  • What is the Difference Between a Goal and a System?

Let’s get started!

What is a Goal?

The definitions of goals I discovered were –

Generally goals follow the SMART acronym – S for Specific, M for Measurable, A for Achievable, R for Relevant and T for Time-Based. An example of a goal would be doing your black belt in karate or creating a book (and aligning them to the SMART acronym).

What is a System?

Basically a system is a repeatable process. However, there are many definitions on systems, including –

  • “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole” ~ Google
  • “A system is a way of working, organising, or doing something which follows a fixed plan or set of rules” ~  Collins Dictionary
  • “a set of connected things or devices that operate together” ~ Cambridge Dictionary
  • “A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim. Without an aim, there is no system. …A system must be managed. The secret is cooperation between components toward the aim of the organization. We cannot afford the destructive effect of competition.” ~ W. Edwards Deming
  • “A system is a whole that consists of parts, each of which can affect its behaviour or its properties.” and “Systems behaviour is determined by the interaction of the parts, not the parts taken separately.” ~ Dr Russell Ackoff

What’s the Difference Between a Goal and a System?

Scott Adams offers a simple and useful definition to explain these terms in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

“If you do something every day, it’s a system. If you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal.”

~ Scott Adams

Some concrete examples include of a goal and a system are –

  • If you are an athlete, your goal could be to win a particular event / tournament. Examples of some systems you implement to do that could include – your recovery routines, your training and tournament schedule as well as the people who are on your team and how they provide feedforward to you.
  • If you are a teacher, your goal could be to engage your students. Examples of a few systems you can implement to do that include – creating a safe and supportive environment, how you implement the curriculum and provide feedback to the students.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

~ James Clear

Over to You…

I hope this post has helped you identify the difference between a goal and a system. If you have any further questions, please comment below.

If you are ready to reclaim your courage and take the next step towards freedom and opening your heartwhy not join our Toolkit?

Reference –

Adams, S. (2013). How to fail at almost everything and still win big: kind of the story of my life. New York, USA: Portfolio/Penguin.

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