Scott Miker provides hundreds of free articles on system and habit improvement techniques.
Small changes in life can be meaningless or they can be life changing. The variable that determines how important small changes become is in consistency.
If, one day, we make a small change in our life and then go back to our old ways that small change is probably meaningless in the grand scheme of things. If we make a small change but take that new step in our lives over and over again and slowly add more small steps, the output can be incredible.
Whenever we feel sick, the first response of most people is to try to feel better. We reach for medicines that can relieve the horrible symptoms that we experience. We want to get rid of the headache. We want to stop the running nose. We want our stomach to feel less achy.
So we reach for the medicine cabinet to see what instant fixes are available. We take the medicine assuming this is going to help us get better.
One of the benefits of the systems and habits approach to improvement is the fact that it allows us to break off pieces of the journey towards betterment. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once we simply tackle one step at a time.
This allows us to take on a different mindset. Instead of getting overwhelmed at all of the future challenges that will certainly come our way, we focus on the current challenge only. We work solely to tackle this problem in front of us.
Whenever we set out to reach a goal we have to be willing to do the difficult work required to change. We can’t simply have a positive idea of a better future and then wish and wish until we obtain it.
This means that we have to do things that we probably don’t want to do. If we keep doing what we want to do, we will keep doing the same things we are doing today. And if we keep doing what we are doing today we will keep getting the same results.
We all want more out of life. We want happiness and success. We want pleasure and achievement. We all want to have great health and wellness. We want wealth that grows larger over time.
While we all want those things, we all go about life differently. Some people sacrifice and work hard, trying to gain one or more on that list. Some people see the difficulty in trying to reach those goals and simply give up.
Years ago I was listening to a successful business owner talk about the culture he created at his company. He talked about how he made it a point to have employees do the right thing.
He talked about it to employees. He made sure his decisions followed the creed to do the right thing. He would do what is right when the choice presented was between the right thing that was hard and a shortcut.
Success in life is complicated. There are many factors involved and we all define success differently.
But let’s just assume there is a common agreement on what it means to succeed. Let’s assume we all mean that we set a goal and then reach that goal.
I’ve led a lot of projects over the years. Some of these have been large-scale corporate projects involving multiple departments and numerous people all working towards one common outcome. Some have been small operational improvements that only involve a handful of people.
A lot goes into project management. There are countless books and methodologies that can help someone learn the best practices for taking a project from idea through completion.
Years ago I read a book by Dr. Wayne Dyer that analyzed and explained the Tao Te Ching. The Tao Te Ching is an ancient text, 2,500 years old. Many throughout the ages have called it the wisest book ever written.
Dr. Dyer’s book was titled Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. When I first started to read it I hated the title and felt it was too attention-grabbing and wouldn’t hold up to that incredible claim.
Systems are made up of interconnecting elements that all work harmoniously towards a goal. This isn’t to say that every element is perfect on it’s own. It is just that as a full unit the system runs and operates as designed.
People judge systems, not based on their quality as a system, but in how the system impacts them. They see the various factors, outliers, side effects, etc. and then form an opinion of the system.
I hear a lot of talk about the entitled millennial generation. Being on the edge of the age range of this generation, I have worked with many millennials.
For a while, I bought into the notion that the millennials were entitled, lazy and disconnected from reality. I saw first-hand some of these attributes. Certainly not all individuals in this particular generation fit the stereotype but many did.
Finish the sentence, the more you gamble the more likely you will ____. What did you immediately think of?
Many people immediately chose the word “win.” They assume that gambling is about playing for longer periods of time so that you can hang in there through losses to reach the winnings.
When I start to talk with someone about improvement, the biggest question that comes up in my mind is what are they doing on a regular basis? What are they doing daily that is different than most people? Are they doing the same things or vastly different things throughout their day?
This provides great insight into who they are. You can start to see from their actions what controls them and what they have control over. You can see limitations in their willpower. You can see areas of focus and what they feel is important.
Whenever we set out to improve, we have to build the right systems. The systems are the key to whether or not we actually improve and get better.
But most people spend time focused elsewhere. They work on building their motivation. They create plans. They create vision boards displaying all the things they will buy once they succeed.
We all go through life with people influencing us. Sometimes that is good and positive role models help us achieve more and sometimes we get caught up with the wrong crowd.
Either way, systems thinking tells us that those factors matter in our life. We can’t simply ignore them. They matter.
When you start to study systems thinking you start to realize the incredible value of thinking about the whole system when addressing problems. Most of the world goes through life following the more simplistic linear thinking. Since this is used over and over again, it must have some value.
Whenever you want to fix a problem, or improve some aspect of life, you have numerous ways to approach the problem. While I am a huge proponent of the value of systems thinking, sometimes it simply is unnecessary.
In systems thinking there is a concept called the balancing feedback loop. This is a system structure that works to maintain the status quo. It wants to make sure things stay as they are and not change.
This is great for many systems. We want our thermostat and furnace to work together to keep the temperature in our home comfortable during the cold winter months. Our body needs to regulate itself if we are outside working on a hot day by sweating and taking specific steps to avoid overheating. We even use this structure when we are speeding and get a ticket, telling us to slow down.
Do you know why you need discipline in your life? It is simple. Discipline is how you earn your freedom.
That’s right. Discipline equals freedom.
Using systems and habits to improve provides a roadmap for how to structure elements in order to gain the most from the system.
You start small, building a few small elements of the system until they become more and more automatic as you do them. Because you focus on consistency above almost anything else, these start to fall into patterns where your brain connects them and uses them to automate future behavior.
One thing that I have learned from studying systems thinking is that many times the path forward has multiple options but we only focus on one or two options.
This is good to help us from being paralyzed by choices but sometimes it significantly limits us from achieving more. Sometimes there is a choice that isn’t obvious that would solve the problem in a better way than the instant solution that people think up.
When it comes to self-improvement, I have learned that it can be painful but that discomfort shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing. Within that pain is a seed of hope.
The reason is simple. If you are pushing yourself to change in a positive way, you will have to go against the current systems and habits in your life.
What grabs your attention more, a news article describing the latest gruesome murder in your community or a new trend that has increasing incarceration rates?
The answer is simple. It is the criminal event. Events grab our attention. They become the crisis at hand. So we block out everything and focus on the event.
When I was younger I formed a bunch of bad habits. I smoked. I drank a lot. I ate extremely unhealthy food on a regular basis. I never exercised.
I remember during those days being frustrated that I couldn’t seem to change. When I decided I wanted to quit smoking people would give me all sorts of advice.
We all have our own idea of what success means. We envision money or accolades, excess or riches. We picture contentment and pride.
But one thing that seems to have spanned the history of man is the idea that successful people sacrifice. Usually they sacrifice gratification now for some additional value in the future.
I have a bad tendency to compare myself to others. I look at another individual’s success and then compare against my own trials and tribulations.
Luckily I learned years ago to put less emphasis on this external comparison and more emphasis on comparing myself against myself. This allows me to avoid unfair comparisons and instead focus on improving myself over time.
We all go through life trying to make the most of our situation at any given time. Sometimes that means planning for the future. Sometimes that means enjoying the present. Sometimes that means learning from the past.
But doing this over time, I have realized that sometimes I hit the mark and sometimes I completely miss the mark. Sometimes I miss it so badly that my life seems to get turned upside down. It turns into a mess.
If you are using the systems and habits approach to improvement you likely have put in place several key behaviors that you do regularly. As you do this, you probably wondered if it is working. So you start to compare the progress that you have made to the end place that you hope to end up.
It is natural to do this. We all do it. We peek at the reward at the end of the journey and get sidetracked. We might be doing well and we convince our self that we can take it easy since we are making good progress.
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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