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How to Effectively Achieve Your Goals While Maintaining Your Mental Health

by Feb 3, 2024

Between our professional lives, academic responsibilities, relationships, dream chasing, and every other source of stress, we’ve got a lot on our plate.

Hustling might seem like the best way to get where we’re trying to go, but constant work is a crude solution to a complex problem.

Hard work is necessary in any meaningful pursuit, but if you can learn to work effectively, you can take care of your mind and increase the likelihood of achieving your goals.

Systems Are More Important Than Goals

According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits:

It wasn’t the goal of winning the Tour de France that propelled the British Cyclists to the top of the sport. Presumably, they had wanted to win the race every year before — just like every other professional team. The goal had always been there. It was only when they implemented a system of continuous small improvements that they achieved a different outcome.”

Setting a goal is not enough on its own. Everyone who loses a race had the same goal of winning. It was the systems used to achieve that goal that determined the victor.

Your system is your daily plan. It is the specific roadmap you set for arriving at a goal. It is the only thing you can reasonably focus on in a single day.

Here’s an example. Goal: You want to become a more social person and make new connections. 


  • Go out to a new social setting every Friday night.
  • Approach one stranger a day and ask how their day is going.
  • Host one social event per month.

Adhering to a system that brings you incrementally forward takes the stress out of worrying about your future goal.

It gives you peace of mind knowing that if you stuck to your systems as best you could, then you’ve done all you can do. There is less anxiety about not doing enough.

And to reference James Clear again, systems boost your happiness by helping you enjoy the process instead of delaying your happiness until after you achieve your goal.

When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.

Thinking in terms of systems takes massive burdens off your psyche.

Focus Only on What Is Most Essential

Another author, Greg McKeown, shares the idea that we take on entirely too much.

It is the habit of high achievers to take on everything. They answer every email, say yes to every request for help, and take on every recommended project while also managing their family, social lives, and health.

This is a recipe for catastrophic stress and burnout.

So, what he recommends is that we should focus on the most essential things only; we cut out everything that is not essential so we can give the most attention to the important things. This is doing less, better. 

He writes

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?”

Determine what is most important to you, and ruthlessly cut out the things that don’t matter.

That could look like…

  • Saying no to people more often and dropping people-pleasing habits.
  • Prioritizing your own needs.
  • Spending more time with loved ones at the expense of some productivity.
  • Making time for health and fitness.
  • Cutting out some time each day to work on a creative pursuit that matters to you.

Becoming an essentialist means freeing up your mental bandwidth for whatever is most meaningful to you.

Embrace Being Effectively Fluid

Ambitious people, high achievers, and perfectionists all tend to share a particular quality: They’re rigid.

They determine their perfect schedule, and anything that deviates from it is an abomination.

If they oversleep, it’s a crisis. If they get caught in traffic, they fly into anger. If they don’t cross off every item on the day’s to-do list, then they are a failure.

This mindset is unsustainable

Being more fluid with your schedule does not mean becoming lazy and irresponsible. It is understanding that you are capable of adapting to unforeseen problems and still getting what you want done, done.

It shows yourself enough compassion to say that no day will ever be perfect and that your effort to get it all done should be commended over everything else.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • You plan on getting up at 6 AM to work out before work, but you have a bad night of sleep and hit the snooze until 7:30. Instead of being harsh on yourself, you flow with it, and you fit a workout in later in the day, even if it’s only 20 minutes.
  • Implement failsafe measures into your schedule. If you aren’t able to workout at a particular time, determine a backup time. If you don’t have time to call a loved one, sacrifice some sleep and call them at night.
  • Determine how important things are (essentialism) and gauge if they are really worth getting upset about.

Think of yourself as fluid and adaptable so that the next time your plans go awry, you know that you’ll be able to make it happen one way or another.

Trying to control every event in your life is a tremendous source of stress, but if you can reduce your locus of control to how well you adapt, you can trust that you will work things out, even on the most chaotic days.

Maintain Your Mind and Keep Moving Forward

You are not a beast of burden or a hyper-efficient machine.

You’re a living being, and the pressures you put on yourself not only stall you from your goals, but they can be detrimental to your health and your overall appreciation of the journey.

  • Put more effort into adhering to systems than focusing on goals.
  • Take burdens off your mind by cutting out the inessential and focusing on what matters most.
  • Trust yourself to be fluid and adaptable.

Keep pursuing effectively, but try to enjoy life along the way.