Think In Systems—Not In Goals

Darius Foroux
4 min readJan 26, 2018
Image Credit

Do you set high goals for yourself? If you’re ambitious, or if you simply want to do a lot of things in life — there’s something you might have experienced: Goals can sometimes be counterproductive.

I see it a lot with the highest achieving people. When you want to live a meaningful life, you quickly feel like you need to do a lot of things, and set many goals.

I also like to set a goal before I start something, so I know what direction I’m heading. Also, I love to plan my goals with the end in mind. When you start with the end in mind (your goal), you can easily trace it back to daily actions.

For example, when I started running, I set a goal: Run 30 minutes a day for six days a week. From there, I deconstructed my goal to smaller, and more achievable goals.

First, I walked for 30 minutes a day. Then, I walked for 20 minutes a day and ran the other 10 minutes. I continued that process until I ran for 30 minutes straight.

Or, let’s say that you’re an entrepreneur, and want to earn X amount of money per month. That means you have to sell X products/services. And if your conversion rate is, for example, 3.5%, you can quickly calculate how many calls/emails/interactions with prospects you need per day.

Now, that’s relatively straightforward.

But how about bigger or less specific goals?

Things like:

  • “I want to make a million dollars before I’m X years old.”
  • “I want to run a marathon this year.”
  • “I want to have 10K followers by the end of this year.”
  • “I want to be happy.”
  • “I want to get married asap.”

You can only calculate or predict so much. There are limitations to goal setting.

I’ve adopted many strategies from Stoic philosophy. And one of the things that Stoic philosophers talk about is how we should only focus on the things we control.

In The Obstacle Is The Way, Ryan Holiday writes about the Stoic expression:

“Ta eph’hemin, ta ouk eph’hemin.” What is up to us, what is not up to us.

Darius Foroux

I write about personal finance, productivity, habits. My best-selling course, Procrastinate Zero 2, is open for registration NOW: