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One and Done or Over and Over?

We are all busy and the modern world conspires to keep us busier. The internet does a particularly good job with that--social media, blogs, newsletters, podcasts, videos, games--lots of rabbit holes to go down. As a result, I try hard, with some success and some failure, to select what I do online carefully. (And given all the choices, I really appreciate people who take time to read my blog.)

One of the few newsletters I subscribe to is 3-2-1 by James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits. One of the appeals of this newsletter is its brevity. Three quotations from Clear, two quotations from others, and one question to ponder. I can open it and digest it in five minutes.

In a recent edition of 3-2-1, Clear offered this piece of advice which resonated with me: “Goals are for people who care about winning once. Systems are for people who care about winning repeatedly.”

Goals are good; as I like to say, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” However, focusing on what you want to achieve in abeyance of how to get there will be a rockier road.

I just finished watching Djokovic win the US Open, his 24th grand slam championship. As a youth Djokovic knew he wanted to win Wimbledon. Lots of people want to win Wimbledon; what set Djokovic apart--in addition to an amazing amount of talent--was he created systems to help him get there. With the help of his coaches, he crafted systems to help him get in shape, to stay flexible, and to hone each of the many strokes he would need to perfect. When he was feeling a bit bloated, he determined he should give up gluten and kept to that system.

Even after he achieved his goal of winning his first Wimbledon, Djokovic kept his systems going and the systems, as well as his goals, made him arguably the best male tennis player of all time.

As you think about how to achieve your goals, think just as hard about the systems you should create to help you reach your goals. Those systems will allow you to achieve your goals year after year.


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