Why Setting Goals are Overrated

Build a system, don’t just set goals

Vincent Weng
6 min readJul 15, 2023


The date was December 31st and I was over at my cousin’s place. We were just a few hours away from the New Year. What were we doing?

Well… what we’ve always done: sharing our new year’s resolution list.

My List:

  1. I’m going to read more books
  2. I’m going to build more muscle
  3. I’m going to sleep earlier
  4. I’m going to do more cardio

Sounds like a good list right? Yes, I agree — but only in the sense of intention.

So… what’s wrong with that list then?

Pretty much everything.

This approach never worked for me. Although I had good intentions, it simply wasn’t enough to produce results. It’s a fundamentally flawed system and lacks complete structure.

This brings us to my topic for this blog post — why setting goals are overrated.

The title may be slightly misleading, as I don’t want to dismiss the value of goals entirely. However, I believe they are often overemphasized and portrayed as the ultimate formula for success, which isn’t entirely accurate. Allow me to explain why.

Before We Start

I want to be sure to state the following: I do NOT claim to be a productivity expert. I do not think that everyone should follow a certain type of lifestyle. This post is simply about sharing my personal experience and what has worked for me. I hope that some people may find it helpful, but I understand that not everyone will resonate with this approach.

For me, adopting this practice has been a deliberate choice rather than an expectation. I derive great satisfaction from achieving my goals, so I wanted to incorporate a system into my life that would support that aspiration.

Of course, I recognize that not everyone prefers a strict system. Others are more free-spirited and thrive in a less structured approach, and that is a form of art in itself. In a world where it is not uncommon to see people push their beliefs among others, I want to be completely transparent and acknowledge that each of us can and SHOULD live in different ways.

With that being said, let’s get started…

What’s Wrong With Setting Goals?

Let’s first start with a quick exercise. What is wrong with the goal below?

Goal: I’m going to lose weight this year.

The goal above lacks quantitative measures. How much weight do I want to lose? By what date do I want to lose that by? How much weight should I lose per month?

Let’s create a new goal with that in mind. What is now missing in the new goal below?

Goal: I’m going to lose 30 pounds by June, which means that I should lose 5 pounds per month.

The goal above is well-intended and quantitatively specific. However, the only missing element now is how.

Losing 30 pounds can seem overwhelming and intimidating at first. However, if you break it down into smaller, manageable steps, it becomes much more attainable. By setting up a system where you aim to lose 1 pound per week to reach that milestone, that goal becomes much less intimidating.

And that brings me to the one crucial point: the downfall of setting goals lies in constantly fixating on the end goal on a daily basis, which can be extremely demotivating. However, by implementing a system, your focus shifts to the present moment and only what needs to be done today.

It’s like climbing Mount Everest. It seems impossible from the bottom, but if you take one step at a time, you will eventually reach the top.

Why You Should Build a System

The concept of building a “system” can be approached in various ways, such as creating a daily to-do list, using a monthly calendar view, or implementing a Kanban board. Each system has its own unique qualities, and it’s important to find the one that suits you best.

But one thing should be consistent: you should plan out each step and meticulously draw out a clear path toward your goal. By doing this, you can hold yourself accountable and measure your performance as you go.

How do I plan this out, you might say?

The answer is simple: research, research, and research. Utilize available resources and seek guidance from those around you. In today’s digital age, the internet grants you access to enormous amounts of information. By embracing this abundance of knowledge at your fingertips, you will discover the resources you need to support your journey.

Once completing your research, it is now time to implement your game plan. Some foundational questions you need to ask yourself — How many hours do I want to commit per week? What should I be doing on what days and for how long? By what date should I complete this by? How often should I reflect on my progress?

The main idea is to eliminate confusion by having a clear understanding of what needs to be done each day. It’s important to consider backup plans in case you fall short of your goals on a particular day. Approach planning with relentlessness and meticulousness to ensure your actions are well-thought-out and executed effectively.

Sounds pretty strict, doesn’t it?

The Beauty of Imperfection

Let’s be honest, it’s unrealistic to expect flawless execution of every daily, weekly, or monthly milestone. We are humans after all. Which is what brings me to the most important message to keep in mind:

Strive for perfection, but don’t expect perfection.

The logic is simple — we are inherently imperfect, and it’s important not to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. While we may desire perfect outcomes, it is simply impossible to achieve them consistently.

But… by striving for perfection and a seemingly impossible task, you will discover a level of potential that you didn’t know you possessed.

Life is designed to involve challenges and unforeseen hurdles, which provide opportunities for growth and resilience. Embracing these realities allows us to navigate through difficulties and appreciate our unique journey.

We all walk into a testing room with the objective of scoring 100% on an exam. But our diligent preparation for a big test will never outweigh human imperfections. As long as you know that you’ve done everything possible in terms of preparation, execute your game plan to the best of your abilities and just let the results come to you.

The main objective here is not to obtain perfection, but to minimize the probability of mistakes and errors.

The Final Piece

The weight of society’s expectations can be daunting. We’re often pressured to achieve success, find our passion, become role models, and build a strong family. It is indeed a long and arduous journey, but it is precisely through navigating these trials and tribulations that we discover our true selves and create a boundless potential for self-growth.

Human nature inherently carries a certain level of ambition and desire. This inherent greed, rooted in our evolutionary genetics, drives us to set goals and aspire to achieve them. It is a common thread that binds us all as we strive for personal validation and fulfillment.

To tell the truth, there are days when I don’t feel like doing anything. There are days when I lack the motivation to even start. Buy I truly believe that my actions and decisions on my worst days will ultimately define my character, so I am always determined to beat it!

I hope this post serves as a valuable catalyst for embarking on a journey of self-improvement, motivating anyone to take those initial steps towards personal growth and positive transformation.

As always — thanks for reading!