Systems, Goals, Happiness, Depression and Better Mental Health

Yesterday I got up at 6:50 am. Do you know how long it’s been since I got up before 7 am on a Sunday?

Yeah, neither do I.

Why was I up so early (for me) on a Sunday? For the simple reason that I’ve been implementing new systems in my life.

Systems Over Goals

I can’t remember where I read it first, might have been Scott Adams, might have been Ramit Sethi, maybe even Mike (barf) Cernovich. Doesn’t really matter, though, and whether the source is someone you admire or not, the sentiment holds:

Goals are for suckers, winners have systems.

I told the story of how I was in middle life, having achieved most of the goals our parents encourage us to set; fairly successful in my career, married with 2 awesome kids, etc. And I was completely miserable. As was my wife.

Spending half a lifetime pursuing goals, with no other endgame in sight, with no thought to how I lived, only to the goals in question, had left me hollow. So I made a change and implemented systems.

Here we are, another kid, a bunch more career success and 10 years later, and in running systems instead of pursuing goals, I’m…happy.


Happy, Andrew? You’ve devoted a whole lot of space on this blog, and an entire YouTube channel to your battles with depression, how can you claim to be happy?

Easy, happiness and depression are different things.

When the depression grabs me, it’s got nothing to to with whether I’m happy or not. It’s bad wiring, or bad biochemistry, or some combination of the two. In short, it’s a mental illness.

In other words, when I’m not in the throes of depression, I’m happy. In fact, the general happiness of my life is one of the things I use to combat the depression.

If I didn’t have a wonderful wife, three great kids, a job I (mostly) enjoy and hobbies and passions to fill the hours, I would have far fewer tools to fight the depression. It was, in point of fact, the very existence of my children that kept me on the green side of the grass last February.

December Was Iffy.

Christmas time is a bad time for mental health. It’s an incredibly stressful time of year all on its own. We worry about money, and time, and family, and friends, and making sure our kids have the best possible Christmas.

Add into the mix a world gone insane, and the threat of more fuckery with our children’s lives, and December was iffy for me. In fact, the depression was hitting me on alternate days.

One day would be bad, and I’d fight my way out. Having got myself out, the next day would be good, but something would happen and I’d be back fighting the monster.

Come January, because Doug Ford is an idiot, and a spineless jellyfish of a “man,” things got particularly bad. leaving me in a mental fog for most of the first two weeks of the month. Fortunately, there were moments the fog lifted, and in those moments of clarity I was able to both devise a plan, and implement systems to move that plan forward.

And here we are.

Now we’re reaching the close of January, and the systems I talked about yesterday have me achieving these small goals:

  • better sleep
  • writing (and publishing) every day
  • recording (and publishing) every day

This is why goals are for suckers. Having the above three things as goals got nothing done. Having systems in place has allowed me to achieve the goals.

A Salutary Effect.

Beyond achieving those relatively simple goals, the systems (and to be fair, accomplishing the goals themselves) have had the salutary effect of keeping my mental health problems at bay.

I have a great deal more work to do. Yet by starting small, and implementing simple systems, I have achieved simple goals. Attaining these simple goals has had good consequences, both intended and unintended.

A consequence as large as keeping my depression at bay.

A consequence as small as being able to rise as early on a Sunday as any other day of the week.