Scott Miker provides over 150 free articles on system and habit improvement techniques.
Most people remain relatively the same throughout their lives. They go through natural changes as they age, but we really don’t change as much as we do when we are young.
Part of the reason is that we find what works. We start to see what works and what doesn’t. Then we stick with what has worked for us.
Everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses. Everyone has positives and negatives about them. No matter whom you are talking about, there are things they do well and things they do poorly.
If we all have strengths and weaknesses, how can some people become successful while others struggle to have any real success in their life?
What if we take all of the automatic behaviors and automatic choices we make, and start to mold those into something new? Can we take a series of habits that we are not even aware of and change those to drive us in a new direction?
Yes we can. We can start to make subtle changes that have lasting impact. It won’t happen by making the choice once, but it certain is within our abilities if we can make the choice over and over and over.
One of the core elements of the systems and habits approach to improvement is to constantly make adjustments to the way we live our lives in order to get better over time.
This naturally means that we have to keep learning and seeking out new information so we know where to make changes. Thinking systematically will help but only gives the general structure, not the specifics of each circumstance.
Obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States. We hear about it on the news, read about it in medical journals, and experience it when we are in our doctor’s office seeing multiple images on the wall pointing to weight control.
While many people want to shed a few pounds, they probably don’t realize that they are up against their body’s natural desire to keep weight on and store fat for future emergencies when it is needed.
One of the reasons why the systems and habits approach can be so powerful is because it follows how our body functions. All animals follow patterns. There is rhythm to our sleep/wake cycles, how we chew food, the routines we rely on each day and much more.
The systems and habits approach to improvement plugs into this by creating recurring thoughts and behaviors. The more we do something, consistently near the same time each day, the more that pattern will become engrained.
We all utilize habits and routines throughout our lives. This helps us automate actions and thoughts that we do over and over and over.
We don’t want to have to watch a YouTube video every morning to remember how to brush our teeth or take a shower. We don’t want to have to think about every little step in the process.
If you are new to systems thinking, you might get overwhelmed by all of the information and terminology. You can read through models and explore feedback loops but still not quite understand much more than, “everything is a system.”
If this is familiar to you, one of the best steps to take is to start to look for patterns in life. Patterns give us a clear look at the byproducts of a system. You might not be able to spot the system, but the pattern can tip you off as to where to look.
Following the systems and habits improvement techniques often means starting with very small steps. Some people see this as pointless. They assume that we should ‘go big or go home.’
But there is good reasoning behind starting small. Starting small makes it much easier to keep going and not get discouraged and quit. Why would you quit if it were really easy?
Recently I was in a meeting at work discussing a problem that we were facing. We were notified of a change that would have a pretty major impact on how we operate the business.
As we thought through various options we soon realized that we really just had a bunch of bad options. There wasn’t a great option that jumped out us. We were presented with about three or four ways to respond, all with their own consequences and not much benefit.
In thinking systematically about life, we often come across a common pattern where something just seems to build and build. We call this a reinforcing feedback loop.
Reinforcing feedback loops are everywhere. They can be very subtle or incredibly powerful.
When you start on your path of improvement using the systems and habits approach, you will likely be torn at times between trying to keep going and wondering if you are doing enough.
Because the focus is on building habits, how much we do is less important than the fact that we keep going long enough for it to start to become more automatic. But the perfectionist inside us probably screams that we aren’t doing enough.
Years ago I was involved in the purchase and start-up of a new franchise location for a business. It was an exciting experience and one I learned a great deal from.
One thing that I heard constantly during this time was to “follow the system.” Being somewhat of a systems fanatic it was refreshing to hear such a focus on the system.
When I start an improvement program for some aspect of my life I have noticed that my expectations of the results and the way the results actually come are often quite different.
Most of us set goals based on the outcome we hope to see. Even if we set process goals instead of outcome goals to help us do the things necessary, we still have expectations of when we will see results.
Utilizing habits in our lives to improve and focusing on the systems around us can be a great way to move through life. With habits and systems, the focus is on slow, continuous improvement.
While this is a great way to improve your own life, this thinking has been around in businesses for years. Continuous improvement methods vary but they all have at their core the idea that it will take a lot of time so start slowly making things better now.
Many of us don’t see the full impact the habits in our life have on our wellbeing. We know habits play a role in our life but most people assume this role is limited to a few bad habits and automatic routines like driving to work.
These are certainly habits, but our habits are actually much deeper and more ingrained in our lives. Habits determine much more than deciding if we bite our nails. They determine who we are and how happy we are.
The systems and habits approach to improvement focuses on making small steps towards improvement. It looks at time as something to leverage so it takes the slow road forward and doesn’t expect instant results.
This means that there will be times when things are difficult and times when things are easy. There will be times where we see great results and times when the results don’t come. We will have times when it just seems to flow and times when everything feels like a struggle.
The other day I started reading a new book, Start Here, Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing. I saw this book at the library and started reading it, not expecting to gain too much insight from it.
As I read the early chapters, I came across a section that blew me away. It referenced the Tao Te Ching and talked about many themes of happiness and wellness that I have explored, but did so in an amazingly straightforward and insightful way. Suddenly a lot of different areas of exploration in my personal wellness journey came together in a new, yet familiar way.
We all worry at times. Sometimes we worry that our job is at risk and sometimes we worry that a new illness is something more than a cold.
While everyone has moments of worry, some people worry more than others. I used to worry about everything and it consumed my life. At the time it felt like this was something I had no control over and just had to cope with.
I’ve often heard the advice to live life as if today was your last day. I’ve never liked this advice and recently when I heard it, I realized just how much this advice could lead to poor decisions.
When I was younger my philosophy on life was quite different. I drank and partied a bit much so if I were told I would die the next day I would probably choose to live that day partying and having fun. I would ignore any consequences to my actions and give in to any temptations that surface.
Systems thinking is a concept that has been around for decades. Even prior to the official systems thinking experts, you see signs of systems thinking throughout history.
Systems thinking is the ability to think about a whole situation and all of the interconnecting parts rather than just seeing a small snapshot of the full system.
Following the systems and habits approach to improve some aspect of your life you will certainly come up against times when you want to keep going but the discomfort around that builds and builds.
When we try to change ingrained habits we can put the odds on our side by starting small, focusing on progress over perfection and being flexible. But there will still be times when it is very difficult to keep going.
Many people hear me discuss the systems and habits approach to improvement and think that must mean a very rigid, disciplined approach. But that is not correct. In reality the systems and habits approach is incredibly flexible.
Flexibility is important. When software engineers started to realize the traditional, structured approach to project management led to failure, they came up with Agile Project Management. They learned that by having small iterations it doesn’t lock you in like a complex project plan does.
There are a lot of books that talk about identifying your values and then clarifying them so that you can live your life on purpose. The idea is that, if we only know for certain what we believe, we can then live out our life with the purpose and meaning we all crave.
They claim the remedy to an unfulfilled life is simply a better understanding of what you want in life. Find this and everything else will follow.
Most of us know what we should do in most situations. But our behaviors often follow something else.
We go out with friends instead of preparing for the report that is due. We smoke, eat junk food, and watch too much TV, when we know those things are not good for us.
Everyone is different. We all have varying experiences and beliefs that make us who we are. We are each unique and add value in our own way.
But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t common patterns. In fact, many of us probably see recurring behaviors by different people and see the similarity in each person’s approach.
The systems and habits approach to improvement relies on very small steps. We find small improvements that we can do and then we do them over and over again.
By doing this we start to slowly build new positive habits. We think through these changes to make sure they help us get where we want to go. Without this approach the habits form by default by whatever our recurring decisions happen to be.
Use these tips to overcome the three top reasons that we quit when we set a goal or New Year's Resolution.
In order to reach your goals and be successful you need to attack that moment that determines whether or not you do the right things that will ultimately determine success. If all that stands in your way of success is that moment then put all of your focus in overcoming that moment. Don’t get distracted with potential results. If you are able to do this, you will be amazed at what you can become!
The success or failure of a leader is directly related to his or her leadership systems and habits. Some people refer to it as their leadership style or their leadership capabilities but the reality is that leadership is not simply a style that you adopt or a set of credentials.
We don’t set goals to keep doing something that we already do. We set goals to challenge ourselves and move in a new direction. Yet we probably don’t realize that there is a pattern to goal-setting and for many of us, it isn’t leading to success.
Watching Monday night’s College Football National Championship game is a great lesson in perspective. Most people see the accomplishment of the Ohio State Buckeyes and understand just what the win means for the school. Winning the National Championship in the manner that they did was impressive, but what is more impressive is how prepared they were for each of the final three games.
7 unusual tips for getting back on track when you struggle to achieve your goal.
New Year's Resolutions have an incredibly high failure rate. Change your perspective in order to start building meaningful change this year.
One aspect of self improvement is especially difficult for people, including myself. Usually we know exactly what we want and set a goal to achieve it. We also know what it will take to reach that goal. Somehow we still miss our goal...
There is a concept in psychology called Transactional Analysis. It describes human behavior and attributes much of our lives to the those around us in our childhood. It is fascinating work that provides insight into the human mind and how we process the information around us...
Innovation, flexibility, spontaneity or creativity are not the opposite of systems and habits, they are the step after systems and habits have formed...
Last night, while watching the NFL Monday night pre game show, I heard Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young say that the Jets’ quarterback needs to “work until it becomes reflexive recall.” He emphasized that performance on the field was directly related to the ability to strengthen proper habits during practice. This way, when it comes time...
This website has been developed to help you understand the power of systems and habits in your life and then take action to build the person that you want to become. There are over 70 free articles, 1 free eBook, and free videos and links to other system and habit experts.