Build Systems, Not Goals (Part II)

graphic of lightbulbs hanging

Just a week into January, it’s a good time to reflect on how things have been going. Take a moment to pause and ask yourself what you want from the fresh start of 2017, and if you’ve taken any steps so far to work toward those changes.

The second part in our action plan series expands on the idea of implementing systems over goals. In our first article, we discussed the negative side of goals. Now it’s important to highlight the positive side of systems.

To refresh, accomplished author Scott Adams (2013) explains that goals may limit what you achieve because they are narrowly focused on attaining one thing, meaning you may pass on other rewards along the way. “You miss out on opportunities that might have been far better than your goal,” Adams explains in How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big (2013).

Now that you’ve decided on the systems you want to establish, it’s important to set up measures that ensure your systems will succeed, especially if they are new or represent a significant change from your normal practices.

Don’t be afraid to go big

If the changes you want to make are drastic, that’s okay. In fact, it’s great. Don’t limit yourself out of fear that you may not be able to do it. A major advantage of systems is that you’ll accomplish things along the way you may not have thought were options before.

Follow the lead of corporate behemoths Microsoft and Amazon and adopt your own Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals (BHAGs). A concept popularized in Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the authors found that BHAGs were what set some companies apart from others in terms of success. Take a look at the BHAGs some companies have put in place.

Amazon: “To be Earth's most customer-centric company.”

Microsoft: “Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Google: “Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Gift of Life Marrow Registry: “To cure blood cancer through marrow donation by ensuring a match for every patient in need, whenever they need one.”

Of course, the dreams of these institutions are large, but it’s easy to see the achievements they’ve made while pursuing their BHAGs. Had their big dreams not existed, they may not have accomplished many other noteworthy things.

Keep working on your systems this year, and check back in for more motivation in this series.



Written by Kelsey Bober, Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education.


About Amazon. (2016).

About Microsoft. (2016).

Adams, S. (2013). How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. Penguin UK.

Clear, L. (2016). Forget About Goals. Focus on This Instead. Retrieved from

Collins, J. C., & Porras, J. I. (2005). Built to last: Successful habits of visionary companies. Random House.

Company Overview. (2016).

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