The problem with goal setting and gifting

by | Apr 26, 2022 | Experts

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the best way to achieve what we want in life is to set specific, actionable, and attainable goals. This concept isn’t new—most of us are taught that goal setting is the only true path to success. We set goals for the grades we wanted to get in school, the new skill we want to learn, and the profits we want to earn in business. Over time, most of us will succeed at a few and fail at a lot. Eventually, this repetitive trial and error method begins to prove that our results have very little to do with the goals we set and nearly everything to do with the actions we take and the systems we follow.

In this blog, our team of Gifting Experts explores the differences between goals and systems and outlines four common problems of goal setting as it relates to gifting.

The difference between goals and systems

What’s the difference between systems and goals? According to the novel Atomic Habits by James Clear, “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.” Here are a few examples outlined in the book:

  • If you’re a coach, your goal might be to win a championship. Your system is how you recruit players, manage your assistant coaches, and conduct practice.
  • If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal might be to build a million-dollar business. Your system is how you test product ideas, hire employees, and run marketing campaigns.
  • If you’re a musician, your goal might be to play a new piece. Your system is how often you practice, how you tackle tough measures, and how you receive feedback from your instructor.

So if you completely ignore your goals and focus only on the system, would you still succeed? For example, if you’re a VP of Sales and ignore your quarterly goal to convert more new customers and focus only on helping your team develop a better sales approach, would you still get results? Yes—the goal for any Sales team is to meet or exceed your quotas, but it would be wasteful to spend the whole quarter hyper-focused on that single goal. The only way to actually acquire more new clients is to take action and help your team improve their sales approach. In the words of three-time SuperBowl winner Bill Walsh, “The score takes care of itself.” The same is true for other areas of life. If you want better results, forget about setting goals. Focus on the system instead.

The four problems of goal setting as it relates to gifting

Does this mean goals are entirely useless? No! Goals are great for setting direction, but systems are better for making progress. According to Atomic Habits, “Problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about goals and not enough time designing systems.” Here are four problems with goals as it relates to gifting:

Problem 1: Success and failure have the same goal

As humans, we concentrate on people who end up succeeding and mistakenly assume that ambitious goals led to their success while overlooking all of the people who had the same goal but didn’t succeed. It isn’t the goal of launching a Virtual Gifting program that makes you successfully create meaningful connections with people. It is only when you take action and implement a proven system—partner with Cultivate, connect with a Gifting Expert, and launch an online gifting platform—that you’ll achieve a different outcome.

Problem 2: Achieving a goal is momentary

Imagine you’ve been tasked with developing an onboarding strategy for new hires that will welcome them with a gift of their choice. You put it off for months and finally set aside time at the last minute to plan a gifting program with a Cultivate. You’ll achieve your goal—for now. But if you maintain the same lack of time-management skills that led to procrastinating this project, you’ll soon be hoping for another burst of motivation. Thus, you’re stuck in a cycle chasing the same outcome because you never corrected the system behind it. You treated a symptom without addressing the underlying cause.

“Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counterintuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results aren’t the problem. What we really need to change is the system that causes those results. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.”

Problem 3: Goals restrict our happiness

There’s an implicit assumption behind goal setting: Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be happy! The problem with a goal-first mentality is that you’re putting happiness on the back burner until you reach the next milestone. The antidote? A systems-first mentality. When you put the process first, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be happy anytime you’re taking incremental action and progressing forward.

Problem 4: Goals are at odds with long-term progress 

Lastly, a goal-oriented mindset can create a boomerang effect. Let’s say you plan an on-site Event Gifting program to reward employees. As soon as the event ends, you believe you’re done appreciating them for the rest of the year. In your mind, the gifting program is over and there’s nothing left to motivate employees with. So, if all of your hard work was focused on that particular goal, what is left to push you forward after you achieve it? This is why many people find themselves reverting to their old habits—like handing out gift cards and tchotchke—after accomplishing a goal.

The purpose of setting goals is to win the game, and the purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. When it comes to appreciating people, creating meaningful connections, and fostering long-lasting through gifting, it’s not about any single gift or program you deliver but the cycle of actively appreciating people and putting a system in place—like continuously partnering with Cultivate—that will make you successful.
If you’re ready to break old habits and partner with a team of experts who will help you change the way you think about and value appreciation, connect with Cultivate. The only way forward is through, so let’s climb the ladder of success together.

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