Why your child should stop pursuing their goals

And focus on this instead

Think about it for a minute — winners and losers set the same goals. 🤔

So what separates an Olympic gold medal winner from the athlete who barely misses the podium?

Answer: the systems they create

A system is a series of procedures or processes you put in place to achieve your goal.

For example, if you’re an entrepreneur, your goal might be to build a multimillion-dollar business. Your system is how you test product ideas, hire employees, and run marketing campaigns.

That example is lifted straight from this article written by James Clear. You should definitely read it.

The point here is not that goal-setting is bad. It’s that simply setting one doesn’t necessarily help you achieve it.

More importantly, especially as it pertains to raising “successful” teenagers, there’s a better way for them to self-motivate than by setting goals. That better way is to build systems of small, consistent, daily progress.

In other words…

Goals define WHAT you want to do (write a book), whereas systems help you define WHO you want to be (a writer).

In the December 14th, 2020 issue of the Monday Morning Memo, Roy Williams put it this way,

“Goals do not change behavior.
Decisions change behavior.
(Yes, a goal can occasionally lead to a decision.
When that happens, focus on the decision, not the goal.)

Desire is rooted in the ego.
Identity is rooted in the heart.

Goals are produced by desire, what you want.
Decisions are produced by identity, who you are.

The reason I bring this up is because helping to shift your child’s mindset from being goal-focused to systems-oriented is crucial to their long-term success and happiness. And we care about both. 🤗

I think that bears repeating…

Shifting your child’s mindset from being goal-focused to systems-oriented is crucial to their success and overall happiness.

The problem is, society has trained our teenagers to use goals as a benchmark for success…

Did you get that A in class?

Did you make varsity?

Were you elected to club president?

Did you get into your “dream” college?

If your child is stressed out about grades, test scores, or whether they’ll get into a good school, remind them that those are outcomes (goals). Worrying about the outcome itself does not change whether they will achieve it.

Instead, encourage your teen to focus on optimizing their routines and habits (systems), and they will automatically improve their chances of reaching those goals.

As their parent or guardian, be sure to practice what you preach. Meaning, pay attention to what you prioritize when you ask your child about their day, or how you celebrate their accomplishments.

For example, if your teen aces a test, do you praise them for their success (achieving the goal) or for their effort (the system)?

The problem with praising them for the outcome is that it sends a subconscious signal that next time, you may not be as proud of them if they don’t perform as well, even if they put in the same amount of effort.

This reminds me of Carol Dweck’s research around fixed vs growth mindsets.

According to Dweck,

“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”

If you catch you kid saying things like, “I’m bad at math,” or “I’m not smart enough to get into Berkeley,” these are the thoughts of a fixed mindset, and great opportunities to help them reframe their thinking.

Alternatively, people who have a “growth mindset” seek out challenges and view failure as a chance to learn and build upon their abilities. As Carol Dweck puts it,

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Want to help your child cultivate a growth mindset and develop habits that will lead to sustainable success and happiness? Help them optimize the daily systems they put in place to reach their goals. To quote James Clear,

“Your outcomes are a lagging measure of your habits. Your net worth is a lagging measure of your financial habits. Your weight is a lagging measure of your eating habits. Your knowledge is a lagging measure of your learning habits. You get what you repeat.”

You see, there’s a reason we created Everydae the way we did — to help students build a system of exponential daily improvement. Acing a test or getting a good SAT score are simply the outcomes of our students’ consistent daily effort.

Success rarely happens overnight. It starts with a small step, everydae.


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