It’s New Year’s Eve. We’re on the verge of closing out 2019 and the decade, and that means you’ve likely been inundated with a million social media posts, blog posts, videos, and emails about setting big, hairy audacious goals. I know I have.

All the advice out there says you need to sit down, dream big, and put your goals on paper. Some even emphasize the importance of sharing your goals out loud, announcing them to the world, so that you are now “accountable.”

This is all stuff I’ve taught in some form or another over the years, but in truth, I’ve been reluctant to sit down and do any of it for myself this year. In fact, I’ve given very little deep thought to what my big goals are for 2020. Yes, they’re floating around nebulously in my head, but I haven’t felt compelled (other than the myriad reminders coming from alllll the sources telling me I need to) to actually do it. And as I thought about what to write about this week, I began to ask myself why.

Why am I not itching to put it all on paper?

Why hasn’t the obsessive planner in me kicked my booty into gear yet?

Why haven’t I made the time to clear my head to dream?

Why is it December 31st and I don’t have a plan yet?

These are all great questions, and you may be wondering the same thing about yourself. So, let’s dive in and dissect them.

You probably know by now that I’m a voracious reader. As of today, I have read 144 books this year. Many of those are fiction, but I’ve read my fair share of business and leadership books, too. And one of the ones that has stuck with me this year is Atomic Habits by James Clear.

James defines an atomic habit as a “a little habit that is part of a larger system. Just as atoms are building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are building blocks of remarkable results.” He goes on to say, “if you ever want better results, then forget about setting goals, focus on your system instead.”

This really resonated with me when I read it in March. Having goals is great, but if you don’t have an actual plan and a system to support the achievement of those goals, they likely aren’t going to happen. At 2 Smart Girls, we talk about often about the importance of designing for the results you want, and when I think about what that means for me and the business for the upcoming year, I know that in order for the nebulous dreams in my head to actually happen, I have to design the system to support them.

I think that’s partially why I’ve been reluctant to sit down and do it, because I’ve allowed it to become this HUGE thing. But if I go back to what James said an atomic habit is – a little habit that is part of a larger system – then it feels manageable to me.

So, here’s the process I’m going to be using over the next few days, and I invite you to try it out too.

  1. Determine the results you want in your business and life this year.
  2. Ask yourself: What will actually help me achieve that result? What small habits do I need to develop in order to build a robust system to make it happen?
  3. Make the decisions that enable those small habits to be the priority.
  4. Do it.

Do I think you need goals for the year? Yes. Goals give you a direction, but it’s the system you build to support and enable those goals that helps you make progress. And this is where I want to focus my time and attention this year. Especially when I know that the strength of the system will make or break the achievement of that goal. In fact, James Clear says, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” Think about that for a second.

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

So with that in mind, let’s get practical here. As a business owner, if the result you want by the end of the year is to make $100,000 in revenue, then the question becomes – HOW? What are the big and small things you’re going to do to make that happen? The system you create, that will ultimately be the engine that pushes you forward, is the marketing campaigns you create, the services you’re offering, the people you bring into the business to help support you, etc. It’s also how you care for yourself as you’re driving toward this result, as well as the way you hold firm to boundaries in order to create balance for yourself and the life you want for you and your family.

Setting goals isn’t enough. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that both successful and unsuccessful businesses generally have the same goal – generate revenue and profit for the business, make an impact on the world… – but it’s the business that makes incremental improvements, incremental decisions, that makes the difference. The system is the most important part.

Think about this from a sports perspective. Most athletes have the same goal – to win whatever the pinnacle event is for their sport – but it’s the team or athlete that builds a system of incremental improvements that will ultimately win. It’s the incremental habits built over time, the decisions every step of the way that are made that push you forward, that help you win.

Smart Girl, here’s what I want you to hear as you step into 2020. It’s not the goal that’s going to help you succeed; it’s the system behind the goal and the little habits you put in place that will be the difference. As you step into the new year, take the time to get really clear on not just the WHAT but the HOW and start taking the baby steps to get there. Until next time, be present, be strong, be you!

P.S. If you’re struggling to get clarity around your goals or wondering how to build a system to support them, let’s talk. There’s nothing worse than walking into the new year without a plan, and we would love to help. 

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