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System is Everything

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” - 2 Timothy 4:7

You may not be approaching the end of your life as was Paul in his final letter to his young apprentice Timothy, but the year has ended and we are well into 2022. In this verse, Paul was confident of the success of his life in Christ; his declaration is infused with a sense of accomplishment in doing what he set out to do for Christ.

Upon reflection, can you boldly proclaim that you gave your all in 2021 – did you fight a good fight? Did you leave the year with your head held high regarding the goals and objectives that you set yourself to accomplish?

We may be well into January, but it’s not too late to look back on how your 2021 went.

Last year I set myself a number of goals which were not accomplished. To give you a bit of an insight into some: my priority was to have passed my driving test… It's now January and I've only passed my theory last week and am yet to undertake any driving lessons. Another goal of mine was to consistently gym between 3 to 4 times a week as well as to read three major books from my field of interest.

The common thread amongst these goals was that I started them but I never finished/accomplished them: with some I fought a good fight for a little period of time, with others I forfeited midway and oftentimes I was knocked down early on and never mustered the strength to get back up. But as I reflected on why I didn’t achieve some of my personal goals I realised that having a goal or goals doesn’t enable you to achieve them. In other words it’s not enough to have a goal.

Goals are great but they are simply just that – goals.

Every athlete I’m sure had the goal of winning gold in the 2020 Olympics, but it wasn’t the goal that enabled some to win gold, but the system they had in place to achieve it. To make it more palatable I'll share with you a goal that I achieved… eventually.

In 2021 I set out to consistently run 100k each month: due to the laziness of 2020 and the fitness I realised I had when, for the first time in months I played football, I was really determined to get back to optimum fitness levels.

To achieve this I set myself micro objectives of running a minimum of three, 5k runs per week. Over four weeks I calculated that would equate to 60k per month which would be 40k short of my goal – but I would sort that out later, I just wanted to start running.

January arrived and departed but I only managed to run – 0k (it was too cold in the morning and my bed was too warm and cosy). February was what I would graciously call ‘better’ in comparison to January, still super cold but I managed a – 4k run… all month. March was a ‘cute’ improvement, I clocked just 2 runs which equated to – 10.75k (any progress is progress right?). April on the other hand was… non-existent, clocking a whopping… 0k and 0 runs.

However, despite this terrible start I did not give up: in June I clocked 68k and 66k in July, don’t ask me about August, I had COVID… in September I reached 79k for the month. October dipped down to 59k for the month, but from then on I was improving each month and only in November did I finally reach my target; I hit an all time high of 104k and then I went on to smash that in December where I managed to clock 114k for the month!

having a goal or goals doesn’t enable you to achieve them. In other words it’s not enough to have a goal.

How did I achieve my goal? What strategy did I implement to ensure I achieved it?

Well… firstly, my goal didn’t help me achieve my goal. I had the same goal every single month but clearly that did not spur me on to achieve it. So what then? It was the systems I put in place to achieve my goal – what do I mean? I’ll explain.

In January I had some tacky running shoes, no gloves, no leggings, no windbreakers, no neck warmer – simply put I had no running gear and was poorly prepared and bound to fail in achieving 100k each month. In order to reach/achieve a goal systems must be in place:

“You fail to carry through what you undertake. You have not disciplined yourself to regularity. System is everything.” - E.G. White

From August onwards when I was edging close to the beloved 100k mark I incorporated specific, intricate systems that would enable me to achieve my goal. Firstly I bought more running gear: shorts (so that I had no excuse about not having any clean running shorts to run in), gloves and leggings (to take away the excuse of my hands and legs being cold) windbreakers, waterproof running jacket (to remove any complaint about being wet), and all weather running shoes (to eradicate any rubbish about the possibility of having wet feet on a rainy day).

Simply put, I reduced all possible friction that would hinder me from accomplishing my objectives, which would in turn enable me to achieve my overall goal. My excuses were reduced to a minimum. Whatever the weather cold, rain or blizzard and even snow the gear I purchased enabled me to run consistently. This was a major key because mornings are easily cold and in the chilly winter months the excuse of “it’s too cold” is too easy to buy into.

The next part of my system which was just as key as my running gear was my diet and sleeping pattern. I usually start running between 6am and 7:30am, however if I did not get up on time it was a wrap, I wouldn’t run because my whole day would be impacted by the delay. So each night I set in place measures to ensure that I would be in bed by no later than 10pm and my phone aside by 9pm, these little habits ensured I would get my beloved 8 hours sleep.

I also put a system in place where I would eat my last meal between 5pm-7pm, it would be a light meal so that by the time I would be in bed it would be out of my system and in the morning I would be empty and light ready for my run. My goal never changed, but my systems did. Systems are the processes set in place to achieve goals.

But the frustrating thing about systems is that they take some time to be effective and to produce the desired effects, hence why many people easily give up when they don’t see quick results and they end up not achieving their goals. But we need to press through: bamboo spends months on end embedding deep roots before emerging and when it does emerge on the surface it shoots up rapidly in just a few weeks to be many feet tall.

But back to my running goal I was telling you about…

Some of my friends who do not know the systems I have in place assume that I am just naturally athletic because I now run a minimum of a 100k each month, but if they saw me run in January after my lazy 2020 lockdown they would say otherwise. The systems that I had in place, the 5k runs that after weeks and often months increased to 6k, 7k, 10k, 12k, and now to 13-16k per run were due to the little habits, the somewhat consistency, the intricate system of clothing, sleeping, eating pattern and learning to run without headphones so I learnt how to motivate myself. These systems that I put in place ultimately propelled me to reach the level I aspired to be at and it is only onwards and upwards from here – it was difficult but as my quote favourite states “press with all determination in the right direction and circumstances will be your helpers not your hindrances".

Systems are the processes set in place to achieve goals.

The focus isn’t per se on the goal, but the systems in place, having a goal won’t get you to achieve that goal, but the processes, the system in place will enable you to achieve it. Nail the system and reaching your goal will be a natural byproduct.

Many people have goals e.g. to go to the gym from the 2nd of January but many people fail – why? Well, it wasn’t because their goal wasn’t good enough, but because they did not have the right systems in place to achieve it.

I don’t know what goals you have in place for this year, I hope that you do, if you don’t here is a little blog on how to effectively make some. Once you have your goals, make sure you have the right systems in place: whether it be financially, spiritually, socially, academically or whatever ‘ally’ I have missed out, make it your job to ensure you have the right systems in place, take time to pen them out, don’t give up but keep pressing on. You may only achieve your goal later on as I did with mine, but it’s not about how long it takes, it’s about achieving your goal. As you follow the systems you have in place, you will undoubtedly achieve what you have set out to do.

Nail the system and reaching your goal will be a natural byproduct.

Remember – system is everything.


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