In ministry (or any other type of leadership) there are three horizons that must simultaneously be monitored: vision, people, and structures. Vision is the direction and purpose, communally discerned, towards which the church or organization is both pointing and traveling. People includes both those who are currently members, those who are in leadership, those who may soon be in leadership, and those who are not yet a part of the church. Structure is the organizational scaffold that unites people with vision. Structure is often one of the under-valued elements of effective leadership.
Most pastors and church members care that the church be what God has intended it to become. Most pastors and church members love and care for one another, some even care about those who are not yet a part of the fellowship. Structure, however, can be viewed as the stepchild of leadership.
What’s true in organizational leadership is also true in self-leadership. Setting goals, by itself, is not enough to create the change you want to see in your life. Goals are good, but creating structures that support and propel you toward your goals is even better according to James Clear.
What I’m starting to realize, however, is that when it comes to actually getting things done and making progress in the areas that are important to you, there is a much better way to do things.
So what’s the difference between a goal and a structure? A goal is the desired outcome (the destination, if you will) and the structure is the path to that outcome (the road). Clear provides some helpful examples:
What’s the difference between goals and systems?
If you’re a coach, your goal is to win a championship. Your system is what your team does at practice each day.
If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week.
If you’re a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month.
If you’re an entrepreneur, your goal is to build a million dollar business. Your system is your sales and marketing process.
Clear poses the question: could you ignore your goals and still achieve the same outcome simply by implementing new structures?
The answer is usually yes. For example, I lost sixty pounds not by dieting (per se) but exercising regularly (I started biking to work three days a week), drinking more water, and eating until I was full (and not beyond). My goal wasn’t to lose weight as much as to enjoy the experience of being on a bicycle, something I really enjoy.
I’d like to write a book, in fact I’m working on one. Slowly. On the other hand, in 2013 I wrote 163 blog posts that totaled about 98,000 words. Clear points out that the average book is 60,000-70,000 words. In other words, I could have written a book in 2013! I didn’t because I had a structure in place to write blog posts and had the accountability of being visible. I had no structure for writing my book.
Goals are important, but even more important is figuring out what system, process, or structure will enable you to achieve those goals.
I recommend the article in it’s entirety: read it now.