Now that the holidays are behind us, and we’ve devoured everything from turkey and dressing to milk and cookies, many people are suffering from a condition known as Hope Reflux (HRD). For those unfamiliar with HRD, here’s a quick definition pulled from a reliable source:
Hope Reflux
noun: hope reflux; plural noun: hope refluxes
  1. a condition in which hope for an improved, better life is regurgitated into the mind due to the conclusion of one year, causing eventual failure and heartache by mid-year.
The statistics are unclear on exactly how many people fail to achieve their New Year’s Resolution each year, but the consensus seems to be somewhere between a 90-99% rate of failure. In spite of the disheartening odds, we continue to set goals for each and every new year without fail. After all, if we fail we can simply try again next year, and the year after, and the year after.
I’m only picking on New Year’s Resolutions due to the time of this article’s writing (December 26th). My beef is less with resolutions and more with goals in general. With roots in the fitness industry, I too started out as a formally-educated-goal-setting-robot, never failing to come up with SMART goals. Eventually, I began to notice that results and success – in all areas of life – hardly ever came from goal setting. Before we dive in, let the following excerpt be the final nail in the proverbial “goals” coffin.
Scott Adams said it best in his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big:
To put it bluntly, goals are for losers. That’s literally true most of the time. For example, if your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal—if you reach it at all—feeling as if you were short of your goal. In other words, goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary. That feeling wears on you. In time, it becomes heavy and uncomfortable. It might even drive you out of the game… If you achieve your goal, you celebrate and feel terrific, but only until you realize you just lost the thing that gave you purpose and direction. Your options are to feel empty and useless, perhaps enjoying the spoils of your success until they bore you, or set new goals and reenter the cycle of permanent presuccess failure.

The answer to not being a loser in the new year is not goal setting. It’s systems.

1. a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular.
  • a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network.
    plural noun: systems

Think about your goals. Whether you’re aiming to lose twenty pounds, get a promotion and make more money, or be a better spouse and parent, your goal is to simply improve as a human being. And improvement, growth, progression, or whatever you want to call it is a mechanism or an interconnecting network.

Your body composition is comprised of what you eat/drink and how much you exercise on a regular basis. 

Losing 20 pounds is a goal (albeit a terribly specified goal). Tracking your food daily and maintaining a calculated calorie deficit through diet and exercise for 12 weeks to lose 2lbs/week for a total of 24 pounds is a system. 

Your job performance, or lack thereof, is comprised of how productive you are, how you interact with your coworkers and superiors, and how much value you bring to the business in one way or another.  

Getting a promotion is a goal. Reading a book or taking a course each month to develop/learn a new skill that’s lacking in your company to make yourself invaluable is a system. Likewise, finishing all of your work before noon by avoiding Facebook or other distractions so that you can collaborate on other projects (or maybe start your own side hustle to make more money and forget the promotion) is a system. 

Hitting your monthly sales quota is a goal. Making 50 potential customer contacts, following up with 20 prospects, and setting 5 appointments or meetings daily is a system. 

Your relationship with your spouse and family is comprised of how much focused time you spend with them, your patience and conflict resolution skills when things go awry, and your resilience to fix things no matter what. 

Improving your relationship with your spouse and kids is a goal. Turning your phone off after work, having a designated date night each week, and doing one unexpected act of kindness each month is a system. 

There’s a lot more that goes into every scenario above, but you get the point. Systems rule and goals drool.

As the end of this year approaches, let’s spend more time developing systems and less time worrying about goals. The ultimate goal, after all, is nothing more than growth. And there’s potential for that every second, not every year.

10 of My Personal Systems for the New Year

  1. Read 30 minutes daily – leading to the ultimate goal of reading 50ish books in 2017
  2. Delete and avoid all easy order food apps (pizza, fast food, etc.) from my phone – ultimate goal of maintaining my level of health and fitness with a less intense and less frequent exercise regimen
  3. Avoid checking email before 9 AM – working toward a goal of creating a healthier work-life balance and having a clearer mind in the mornings (i.e. maker vs manager)
  4. 30+ minutes of strength training 3x/week minimum – anything extra is icing on the cake – ultimate goal of maintaining muscle mass, losing a bit of body fat, and continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle
  5. Daily 5-10 minute calls with each of my six managers – ultimate goal of creating great relationships, developing my team and unlocking their potential for success inside and outside of work, and having the best performing team out of our four area managers (competitive much?)
  6. Deposit no less than $450/month in my Roth IRA – goal: to reach yearly contribution limit
  7. Avoid checking on stocks or reading market reaction articles daily – ultimate goal of not selling stocks that I’m holding for the long term based on short-term changes in businesses
  8. Blocking off one hour each week to work on non-work related projects (writing, consulting, creating, etc.) – ultimate goal to continue adding passive income or creating opportunities beyond my day job/career
  9. Dedicate 20+ minutes for one quality conversation (phone or face to face) with both of my parents each week – ultimate goal to show my appreciation for everything they’ve done and further our relationships/maximize my time with them in this life
  10. Read two books from the fiction, history, or any non-self-development genre for every self-development book this year – ultimate goal of being more well rounded, making connections between nonfiction and fiction (more on this later), and exploring new areas of interest

What system(s) will you be implementing in the new year? Let me know in the comments!


One thought on “How to Be a Loser in the New Year

  1. Good stuff my man! I see you’re taking a more business approach?! I noticed that much of my success is from just ‘Getting shit done’ and not overthinking the systems. I set a bunch of goals for 2016 but did not reach many of them. The outcome? My best year yet. I look forward to reading more of your stuff in 17′.


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