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Getting unstuck with Dilbert’s creator, Scott Adams

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Getting unstuck with Dilbert’s creator, Scott Adams

Many/most of us who work with students or clients, especially those with special needs, use goals to define the success of a school year or client sessions.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has written a book about goals. Or more specifically, what to do instead of goals. He trashes the concept of goals in favour of creating systems, sometimes without having any idea of the end result.

His first non-cartoon book is the result of systems and not because writing a book was a goal. His point is that he does things, like writing a blog, because he needs to practice writing daily. Unexpectedly, his habit of daily writing got him a book offer.

Playing board games, for Dr. Temple Grandin was a system to learn how to take turns when conversing. The goal wasn't to be a better board game-winner.

Personally, I’m not against goals. In fact, I have many goals. Some are years into the future. They are both part of my day and not part of my day. I describe them that way because I’ve sliced and diced my goals into smaller than bite-sized pieces so I could move towards my goals every day with infinitesimally small steps and with very little thought.

Except I’ve stopped doing almost all of them. My routines have gone out the window. I need help!

This blog is for me. Maybe it’ll also help you.



To put it bluntly, goals are for losers… goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.

~Scott Adams 
If you read Adams’s book, what he calls systems, can also be called routines or habits.


Action Ideas (Ideas to get ya thinkin’. Not medical advice.)

Goals vs systems (also called routines or habits)

1. Goals, to reach them, we need to do a million things right and avoid doing most of the 10 million things that would sidetrack us. There’s a huge chance of failure and a small chance of success. We might be setting ourselves up for failure if we only focus on the result. 

Systems, on the other hand, correctly implemented, takes very little time, effort, or motivation because the steps are so small. We can also celebrate our daily wins (I love crossing things off of my list).

Systems can be put in place as a slow and steady pace towards a goal or for progress in an area without a goal, like Adams's choice to write every day which eventually led him to a book deal.


2. Goals need motivation to maintain the focus over time, and willpower to move through unpleasant or new behaviours.

Systems become mindless once practiced enough. Like brushing teeth. Also, because the changes are small, our lizard brain isn’t engaged/frightened (“Something new! Run away! Run away now!”).


3. Goals have an end point, which can be dangerous. I had a couple of friends who trained for a ½ marathon. I think the marathon was the last time either one went jogging.

Systems might be more nebulous (for example: to be healthier) and are easily modified, such as: Last week, I finished my water bottle every day. This week, I’ll also add doing 1 pushup against the counter before I allow myself to open the fridge door.


4. Goals can be externally altered. For example, I want to walk the Great Wall of China. Then, I find out it’ll be closed for x years due to repair. If I only focused on the one goal, other similar feats might fall short.

Systems are extremely flexible. If walking was part of my ‘get healthy’ routine, and my knees start to bother me, the routine gets altered to biking or yoga.

There’s also a bonus. In my ‘get healthy’ example, if an opportunity arises that would require good health, such as walking the Great Wall of China, I’m already partway there. It’s easier to expand on a behaviour than to introduce a new one.


5. Accountability is more difficult to do with goals, unless you can find someone with equally ambitious goals.

With systems, far more people would agree to commit to a small change.


6. For some, flexibility is important. Others thrive when there are no decisions to be made.

Put broadly, it's rebellion over rules vs decision fatigue.

Do you bristle at rules, even ones made by you to support you? Do you need some flexibility?

Or do you suffer from decision fatigue? By that, I mean once a decision is made, it's easier to follow it 100%. No options, no decision required. Ask any dieter what happened after they broke one of their diet rules.


7. Whether you choose to focus on goals or systems, or a combination of both, good sleep is needed. Our 10 lb weighted blankets are available in a wide variety of colours options. Thirteen to be exact, including our brand-new orange blanket.

Order one of our luxury blankets (as one owner called them) today and have a focused, energized tomorrow (not literally tomorrow but you get my drift).

What systems and/or goals do you need to put in place so you can offer your overflow to others? 

Providing calmness & comfort, learning & laughter,


P.S. We are trying something new – bringing you over to the website. It’ll prevent any blogpost/comment confusion and make chatting together easier.

The name and message you enter will show but your email will not.

Also, there’ll be a delay because the message needs to be approved. Some Russian ne'er-do-wells have my website on their list and post up to 120 comments/day. None of them appropriate. Hopefully, they’ll grow tired of the game eventually or their entire list of emails will be blocked.

Please help by testing the system. We were having a double-posting issue but think it’s fixed (famous last words).

What do you think of the new system? Yay? Or Nay?

If you can’t think of anything to say, then please copy and paste the quote below. It seems especially true this year.

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke


Websites List of books about habits

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