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Improving Systems and Habits

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.  

A little gratitude might be in order

Scott Miker

How many times in life do you stop and realize the incredible alignment of events had to occur to get you to where you are currently?  Do you see the sacrifice others have made so that you can be here, right now?

Most of us sit around in a world of excess complaining about the lack of more.  We get too caught up in what someone else has that we don’t.  We don’t see that we have exponentially more than most. 

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What is the meaning of life? A look from the systems perspective

Scott Miker

Life is complex.  With the complexity that life presents it can be extremely difficult to get to the meaning behind everything. 

We might think the key to life is to be successful or to make money.  We might think it is to be happy or find joy.  We might think it is to serve others or find a way to improve the world. 

But are any of these truly accurate?  Do any of them, by themselves, really provide a guiding direction to take life?  And are we even capable of doing such things?  Choosing one means eliminating the others and that is difficult to truly do.   

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Find the pattern to find the meaning

Scott Miker

When I graduated college I found myself in a place of struggle.  I seemed to be taking my life in the wrong direction.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something felt wrong. 

It seemed like I couldn’t get myself to do what I needed to.  I initially blamed everything outside of myself.  But then I started to see patterns. 

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You Can’t Surf from the Shore

Scott Miker

I stood on the edge of the ocean and looked out.  I held a surfboard for the first time in my life and I was about to cross off a bucket list item.  But there was a problem.  I was afraid of sharks.

I remember the feeling vividly.  I was terrified and excited.  I was nervous but somehow remained calm.  I thought about bailing, coming up with some excuse to keep me from even trying.  Then I grabbed the board and ran into the water. 

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Self-control when things go wrong

Scott Miker

Everyone has setbacks. Everyone assumes they are taking the right steps in life so when misfortune comes along we tend to get down emotionally. We pity our situation.

But we can’t stay down. We have to learn to see the situation for what it is, learn from it and then move on.

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Evolution versus revolution

Scott Miker

When I was earning my MBA I took a class on leadership. In it, we discussed the difference between evolutionary change in an organization versus revolutionary change in an organization.

When it comes to the organization evolving over time, the key is to make sure that the company improves and gets better and keeps taking steps in the right direction. It is a much more subtle type of change but incredibly important.

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Learn to be free

Scott Miker

When I was younger I felt very restricted. I was a student and had responsibility. I had a job, was taking classes etc.

But over time I started to realize how free I was back then. I didn’t have major responsibilities, like a family or career to worry about.

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The root of impulsive action

Scott Miker

When we set out to improve some aspect of our life, we usually start with something that makes us unhappy. Something provides an element of pain or discomfort.

It could be that we haven’t made the right decisions in the past and we are paying the price today. It could be that we were wrong in certain assumptions about the level of success or happiness we would attain in life.

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Do more and judge less

Scott Miker

As a parent I keep noticing that I am teaching my children to judge. We want them to understand right and wrong. We want them to be kind, polite and well behaved.

So we set out to teach them how to go through life in a way that will ultimately help them achieve more and become well integrated with others. We want them to be happy and to be happy, we contend, they must understand how to navigate the world and avoid trouble.

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Success is not guaranteed

Scott Miker

Life is always going to have an element of unpredictability to it. No matter what we think should happen, fate always intervenes and adjusts the future reality.

One of the things I enjoy about this time of year is the start of the American football season. I have a few teams that I enjoy watching and even tend to enjoy watching games with teams that I have no real interest in.

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Improve willpower through habit

Scott Miker

We can all gain additional strength to do the right thing. While most people assume there is some magical trick to suddenly be able to improve self-control it is actually must simpler.

The way to do this is by using our willpower to build certain habits. Then as those habits become automatic and easy to keep doing, we add more and more.

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Evolution works against your weight loss

Scott Miker

Trying to lose weight is a common goal. We set out to shed the extra pounds we picked up or finally get back to our desired weight.

But most of the techniques that we use are flawed. They work to get us to lose a few pounds but many times are setting us up for future failure.

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Everyone knows what everyone else should do

Scott Miker

When it comes to self-improvement most people struggle. They know where their weaknesses lie but don’t address them. They come to terms with them.

They know their strengths and are happy to leave them at the level they currently reside. Why bother improving if it is a strength?

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Elements of your life bleeds into other areas

Scott Miker

Systems thinking differs from the way most people think. It looks at full systems and the interconnecting elements of the system instead of just looking at small subsections of the system.

This allows us to see a bigger picture and get a better understanding of the full system. It allows us to better understand the world around us.

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Disorder is not lack of a system

Scott Miker

Systems are everywhere. Everything around us is part of numerous overlapping systems in life and everything that happens in our life can be explained through these systems.

Sometimes they are easy to see. We see the solar system, the various systems that regulate our body, the traffic systems in place to help us travel safely, and weather systems.

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Make it easier by creating a bright-line rule

Scott Miker

If you want to succeed, learn how to set bright-line rules. In legal terms, the bright-line rule is one that has a clear, objective definition. It isn’t vague or ambiguous.

When we try to improve some aspect of our life, we often do so with strategies that are not very clear. We want to get healthy so we say we will work out more and eat healthier food.

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Consistency is more important than severity

Scott Miker

I was reading a book the other day called, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney. The book talks about the latest research on willpower and how we can improve in this important area.

It is interesting to read about the connection between willpower and parenting in the chapter called, “Raising Strong Children.” The authors talk about the various elements required to properly discipline a child.

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The Licensing Effect

Scott Miker

One of the benefits of using the systems and habits approach to improvement is that it avoids the licensing effect.

The Licensing effect (or self-licensing) is when you do something good and then use that to justify doing something bad afterwards. So if you get a great workout in and then immediately head to the donut shop to reward yourself you are self-licensing.

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Improve one area but benefit in many areas

Scott Miker

When I first stumbled upon the systems and habits approach to improvement I started to slowly put in place new tactics to improve. I started small and looked to consistently change certain behaviors.

My focus shifted from effort and quality to consistency and quantity. I made sure to do X every day, even though X wasn’t anything major.

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Good habits are more important than doing a good deed

Scott Miker

One thing that gets misunderstood when it comes to personal improvement in life is the fact that habits are more important than doing a good deed.

When we want to improve, most people think in events. They think of a goal they have to achieve or a one-time change they have to make. They think about short-term changes just to reach the objective rather than permanent adjustments.

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