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The best way to set goals

If you are into health and fitness, I am sure you have heard that using the ‘SMART’ principle is the most accurate way to set goals. We have even written about this method in previous blogs. However, some people have suggested that not thinking about the end product but focusing on the journey itself is the way to go. James Clear has explained his theory about focusing on the system behind the goal as the most accurate avenue to take. He explains that while goals are there to motivate us, it’s the system that should have the majority of the planning.

At the end of the day we all have different needs and wants when it comes to motivation and commitment within goal setting, and it is important to find a method that best suits you. So, we have looked into some different approaches to help find yours.

1. James Clear – Systems

As mentioned previously, Clear looks at goal setting as a system. Taking the end number out of the picture and focusing on the day to day hard work. Thinking beyond that one moment of achievement at the end and thinking about how you can maintain long term progress. He makes an example of a basketball team focusing on their training regime, player selection and coach responsibilities over a number to try and hit on a scoreboard. If the hard work is put into a system, the achievements will come.

Clear explains that he believes there are 4 problems when it comes to your typical goal setting methods.

  • Winners and losers have the same goal
  • Achieving a goal is only momentary change
  • Goals restrict your happiness
  • Goals are at odds with long term progress

He concludes that ‘I’ve found that goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress’ (Clear 2018).

2. Habits

Consistency is one of the main contributors when it comes to attaining goals. But staying consistent can be hard when your ‘bad’ habits halt you from staying on track. Charles Duhigg has explained that reminder, routine and reward are the steps to take when creating new habits. Consistency being the key to ensuring the new habit takes the time of the old ones. Over time the creation of a new routine will be second nature and will be the road to accomplishing your goal.

3. SMART Principle

Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time are said to be the best 5 fundamentals to consider when setting your next goal. Preparing a goal that follows these guidelines is said to be the difference between setting yourself up for success or failure. Unlike the systems method, this puts more emphasis on the end result.

It is good to remember that you don’t have to fit into one specific box when it comes to the best goal setting method. It just has to work for you. You might like to take some elements from many theories and make it you own. Don’t be afraid to put words into action and test them out for yourself. Be brave, be creative and remember most importantly, enjoy it!



Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits. Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. Chapter 1.

MacKay, J/ (2017). How to build good work habits (and finally get rid of your bad ones. RescueTime : Blog.

Copeland, B. (2020). SMART Goals How to Make Your Goals Achievable. Mind Tools.