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Systematic improvement for personal goals

Blog

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Systematic improvement for personal goals

Scott Miker

There is a lot written about systematic improvement.  Most of the time this references some complex computer system, business process or environmental factor.  But taking a systematic improvement mindset is also helpful when we are trying to reach our personal goals. 

Most people take a haphazard approach to improvement in their lives.  They just want to coast along and only work on improving after something motivates them. 

They want to eat their favorite foods, watch as much TV as they want, work as little as is needed, and spend money on things they desire.  Improvement isn’t the focus.  The focus is on enjoyment.   

This is why it can be very challenging when we need to change.  If our health becomes a problem we scramble to try to lose weight.  If we find ourselves in debt we look for a quick way to bring in more money.  If we need to improve in any of these personal areas we find it very difficult.

The answer isn’t to change our focus to be on doing things we hate.  We don’t need to sacrifice enjoyment.  But we do need to do things differently.

The systems and habits approach to improvement looks at the situation and identifies areas of the system that can be leveraged to have a big impact.  By finding these areas we can then start improving slowly over time.  The “coast along” that I mentioned earlier becomes gradually improving.  Then there isn’t as great of a need to suddenly change everything because you are steadily improving over time.

The main way to do this is to work on habits.  Habits tend to be leverage points.  In other words, the habits are usually small things that we do over and over again that have a great impact over the outcome. 

Think about our eating habits, spending habits, or habits around housework (do we jump right into projects around the house or wait until we have people coming over before we clean?).  Can we find small things to change in these areas?  If we find small things to change, and then create new positive habits, can we then find other areas to change in this same way?  This is systematic improvement.

One great benefit to this is that it is lasting.  Because you are changing ingrained habits it becomes natural to keep going with those habits without thinking about them.  They become automatic. 

So we start to build solid habits, which help drive us towards success.  While this process takes a lot of time to do effectively, it can be incredibly powerful. 

If you look at systematic improvement in business or computer systems you usually won’t find habits.  You will find processes and procedures or tools and interfaces.  But if you start to break these down enough you will likely find that they resemble habits in a number of ways.  They are recurring, they tend to be leverage points in the system, and they tend to involve change that impacts a number of situations. 

So take a page from the systematic improvement work that has been done and apply the principles to your personal goals.  Find habits and leverage them to change.  This will lead to lasting improvement and will drive success around areas of your personal life that you want to change.