Scott Miker provides hundreds of free articles on system and habit improvement techniques.
Years ago I realized that by starting on a journey to constantly improve, I was becoming significantly happier in life. I was working harder than ever before and continuously doing things that I previously hated, like exercising.
I start to put it together that happiness for me means working towards a better version of myself. As long as I am making progress and improving, I am happy.
Sometimes I imagine that we all strive to be a better version of ourselves to continually improve and assist others in their improvement. We all put off today’s pleasures to build for the future.
I start to see those struggling as victims who are having difficulties through no fault of their own. It seems as though those individuals simply need to see a better path forward so they know which way to go.
In life we all rely on metaphorical tools. We could substitute for the word “tools” such things as intelligence, talent, skills, etc.
When we look at life, most people complacently go through the motions. They are willing to accept whatever happens with a pessimistic perspective and an unwillingness to work to change or improve.
I have often commented to friends and family members that I think it is crazy that we spend so much time and effort adding seasonings, dressings, sauces, flavorings, etc. to most of the food that we eat that is unhealthy but never do that to healthy foods.
I love eating broccoli. But I always season it a good deal. I will add salt, butter, cheese, garlic, olive oil etc. in order to improve the flavor. More than once I’ve heard someone tell me that adding butter suddenly makes the broccoli an unhealthy food option.
When I was younger I used to get into heated debates with friends about everything from politics to sports or from religion to science.
There were many frustrating discussions where I couldn’t understand why they didn’t see my logic. The frustration soon turned to curiosity. I usually had tremendous respect for the person with which I was talking. Sometimes they were significantly smarter than me (other times just marginally smarter).
Systems thinking uses feedback loops to describe many structures in life. We experience feedback loops when we make good decisions and bad decisions.
Feedback loops are structures where the output of a system is fed back into the input. This, then, goes through the system again to be converted to an output. This output will then likely be put back into the system as an input. This can continue on and on and magnify the output.
When it comes to improving some aspect of your life, you likely view it as a chore. Whether it is to lose a few pounds, save more money for retirement or go back to school for more education, the necessary work is probably not one that excites you a great deal.
This is normal. This also signals that we have certain mental models around this subject that are probably taking us in the wrong direction. Part of the structure that we have built to be in the position we are in, is due to these mental models.
I’ve heard a lot of people compare human learning with computer programming. The idea is that we can easily program whatever we want in our life. It isn’t magic, it is simply doing the work of inputting the formula.
When it comes to inputting the formula that is the same as creating the process. When we talk about using systems and habits to improve, we rely on creating these new processes to control our behavior. This allows us to build new routines, habits, structures etc.
Systems thinkers are always exploring patterns in their world. We look for recurring elements more than one-time events.
This is helpful because it helps us to better understand the underlying systems, structures, and mental models at play. When we see someone do something the same every time, we can identify it and understand the pros and cons of that behavior.
All of us are presented each day with millions of choices. On any day we can usually decide if we go to work or skip work, spend time with our family, work on a pet project, attend an important meeting at work etc.
We also choose things that seem minor and we don’t even think about them. We can turn our car right at the stop sign instead of left, we can brush our teeth in the morning before work or not, we can exercise or not, we can take the stairs or the elevator, we can find ways to stay focused at work or let our mind wonder, etc.
Have you ever saw a news story and immediately formed an opinion about the situation but then see another story about the same situation and gained completely different information changing your perspective?
I’m sure we have all done this from time to time. It is natural for us to form an opinion before we have all of the information. In fact, we never really have all of the information about a situation.
Why do you stick with it? This is a question I get from time to time regarding some system that I developed.
It could be that someone asks why I stick with eating a certain healthy lunch every day or why I exercise every morning. It seems that they always have other ways to accomplish the same thing.
Everyone hates the cocky, selfish person. We see someone constantly trying to take from others so that they get more and more, while others get less and less.
We all like generous people. We think highly of the person who gives more and more to others.
In today’s world, there is a lot of advice about change. Some people promote the idea that we are all constantly changing and that being malleable is the only way to succeed in life.
Certainly many of the startup tech businesses promote this concept. They were either successful early in the process or they pivoted until they found something that clicked. Then they maximized it.
Most people assume that the way to keep improving and getting better in life is to set goals and then work to reach them. We set goals that we can then point to as motivation to keep our effort up while we struggle through the steps until we reach the goal. Then we start over.
The idea is that to do this, we keep getting better and better over time. It sounds like it perfectly fits in most improvement programs and is necessary if we want something better from life.
When it comes to designing systems and habits in your life, you will likely get to a point where you can’t continue with your systems.
For me it came when I found out that I had a hernia that needed surgery to repair. I was told to limit any lifting to 15 lbs or less. I was told to reduce exercise to only basic walking.
There is a major difference when you use the systems and habits approach to improve. Comparing it to the common practice of setting goals can highlight this difference.
The major difference is that the system attacks how you are going to improve. The goal is simply forecasting what level you hope to reach.
The past couple of months have been really interesting for me. I have spent years building solid systems and habits in key areas that I was forced to change.
The biggest change was that I had to ease up on exercising. I discovered I had a hernia and was told not to lift anything over 15 lbs and to take it easy until I had the surgery.
Years ago I shifted my frame of reference on goals from having a desire for perfection to being keenly focused on making progress. Instead of wanting everything to fall into place, I was more concerned about the fact that I was growing and improving.
This gave me a new perspective on life. It allowed me to change in order to ultimately improve beyond the level I found myself at the time.
I am the director of operations for a growing medical equipment repair company. We fix home medical equipment, the type of stuff that a doctor would prescribe a patient and the patient would then use in their home – like a CPAP, oxygen concentrator, ventilator, etc.
One of the things I enjoy most about this is the fact that when I was brought into the company the new owners saw the need for better processes and systems throughout the company. Since this is the area of business where I feel most passionate, I was able to combine a need they had with an area I had been focused for years.
This spring we have seen a lot of rain combined with melting water in the Cleveland Ohio area. As I drive to work I pass areas that are flooded and areas where the water begins to flow.
A few areas seem to flood quickly, before the water can travel to lower land. Once it reaches a certain level, it will start to leak out from that area and move to lower land creating a sort of mini stream.
We all like to be right and dislike being wrong. It is human nature to want to be able to make decisions and then look back and feel as though we made the correct decision.
Because of this, we tend to have a bias towards our own opinions and the decisions that we make. We inherently think we are right more often than we actually are. In addition, there is a lot of grey between right and wrong but we miss that when we get too caught up in trying to be right.
When we are working to improve, there are a great many factors that suddenly come into play. They all seem important and it can be difficult to cut through the noise to receive the signal.
When I started my career I founded an audio engineering company, which basically meant I would rely on recording equipment and other audio production equipment in live and studio environments to complete a variety of projects for clients.
When you first start to use the systems and habits approach to improvement it takes time to really gain the benefits. Initially you put a lot of thought and effort into the small changes and adjustments that you make.
These changes probably won’t have much impact on your life. The reason is simple. You aren’t doing enough to have an impact.
We all want to be successful and happy. We have an innate drive towards those things but along the way, most people that I meet go astray.
In my opinion the reason is simple. It is something that I have experienced and came face-to-face with.
Habits are a part of life that most people minimize. They assume when someone says habit that they are talking about some bad habit they picked up like smoking or biting one’s nails.
But habit is much more than that. Habit is how life operates. Animals rely on habits to behave and think the way they do. Humans rely more on habit than rational thought, allowing our decisions to form patterns and then utilize those patterns to dictate future actions.
Few companies have been studied for their ability to efficiently manufacture a product as Toyota. Companies everywhere use the innovative techniques from Toyota today but when Toyota started utilizing the techniques, most companies had no idea what they were doing.
You can gain a better understanding of how to improve by studying how others improve. Therefore, it can be beneficial to look to Toyota for inspiration into how we can improve our own lives.
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...
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