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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.  

What do you want out of life?

Scott Miker

Most of us can think of things we want more of.  We want more money.  We want more time off.  We want more time to travel.  But if we try to move past mere wishes and dreams about more we can find something much more meaningful. 

When I was younger I couldn’t really answer that question.  If I tried to, it would simply be something superficial.  I didn’t really know what I wanted. 

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Don’t settle for good enough

Scott Miker

When I look back over my life, I see two distinct approaches that I have taken to life.  Up until around high school and then again after about age 24, I had the approach that I wanted to improve. 

This time is marked by constantly trying to get better.  I remember when I was in middle school I worked out harder than most of the high school football players knowing that I wanted to improve and be able to play football when I got to high school.

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Process goals and outcome goals

Scott Miker

I have talked quite a bit about process goals versus outcome goals in my articles.  I passionately believe that setting outcome goals is too broad.  It is the lazy way to set a goal.

It says that we have an idea of what we dream about achieving so we make-up the specifics around it so we have a goal.  Then we assume we just have to use more effort to reach the goal.

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The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing

Scott Miker

Walt Disney has had such incredible success that any advice on how to succeed from Disney should be cherished.  One quote from Disney really speaks to the importance of moving past the mental aspects of success and moves to action.

He said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”  Too many times we just keep thinking and talking through our goals rather than start taking action.

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It takes time

Scott Miker

Using the systems and habits approach to improvement you will start to make progress towards your goals.  You will improve and get better.  But it won’t be instant success.  In fact, it will probably take a long time to realize your goals and feel that you made a significant improvement in any area.

This is because the systems and habits approach to improvement uses time to help us grow.  Instead of hoping extreme effort will result in extreme results, we focus on subtle, consistent behavior changes. 

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It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time

Scott Miker

In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron has a line that is just great.  Cameron says, “It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time.”

I love that line.  Too often when we want to improve to look better, we don’t realize that we won’t improve unless we ignore looking good temporarily while we focus more on improvement. 

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Progress not perfection

Scott Miker

In the systems and habits approach to improvement we shift our focus from being perfect to being on making progress. 

Making progress allows us to move forward without being overly concerned with mistakes along the way.  Instead we take those mistakes and learn from them, rather than doing everything possible to avoid the mistake. 

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Everyone can improve

Scott Miker

Everyone is capable of improvement.  Regardless of what you have accomplished in life or what you already tried and failed, you can improve, you can get better.

This might scare some people because if this is true then they feel they have wasted much of their life.  But it is true.  Everyone can improve and get better.

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Just do it

Scott Miker

When it comes to big companies and their marketing campaigns, even the most interesting campaigns tend to become very boring to me after a while.  Maybe it is the fact that I like to root for the underdog and most major TV commercials or corporate slogans come from the opposite of an underdog.

But some seem to stick with me past the airdates of their commercials.  One such phrase that seems to extend beyond the company that used it was with Nike and Just Do It.

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It is up to you

Scott Miker

One of the biggest benefits to using the systems and habits approach to improvement is that it gives us empowerment.  It takes control over our life and puts it in our hands, not someone else’s.

Too often in life we see how external forces influence us.  It could be a string of bad luck or someone treating us unfairly.  But these external forces often become excuses rather than reasons because we allow them to control us.

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Life is the process itself, not the individual moments

Scott Miker

Most people think about life in moments.  They think about the time they accomplished something, or met someone that had an impact on their life.  They think about buying their first home or that family vacation they took.

But in systems thinking, we minimize the events in life and hold the process to be much more valuable.  It isn’t that we ignore the events; it is just that we want to see more than the events.  We want to see the patterns, structures and mental models present in the full system.

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Allow forces around you to help

Scott Miker

The systems and habits approach to improvement is all about making consistent behavior changes to help us reach our goals.  It focuses our effort on changing our recurring behaviors in order to build better routines and processes.

Doing this will have some great impacts on our life.  We will start to feel more in control, we will build confidence that we can change and improve, and we will start to be able to tackle any aspect of our life that we wish to see grow and get better.

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Worry less with solid habits and systems

Scott Miker

One benefit to using the systems and habits approach to improvement is that you get to start building the right structures in your life.  This allows you to make progress towards your goals and know that you are on the right track.

There is a calming effect from this because you gain a confidence that you are doing what you can to improve.  Instead of constantly worrying if you are on the right track, you can point to the systems and habits in your life and take the right path forward.

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What is the first step?

Scott Miker

You may have read a few articles on systems thinking and how to use systems and habits to improve.  Now you may be wondering how to get started.

This is common.  It is common because systems thinking seems so complex and there are a lot of different ways to look at a system. 

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Do you want to be in the stands or on the field?

Scott Miker

Most of us are critics.  We form opinions of professional athletes, politicians, company leaders, performers etc.  We stand back and judge even though our own talent is so far from having similar success. 

The reason is simple.  It is easy to sit in the stands, watch and form opinions.  Our opinions are often based on absolutes.  We can say that we would have done better or we could say, “If that was me I would have done something different.”

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How will you reach your goal?

Scott Miker

Most people get motivated and set goals based on the rewards they hope to obtain at the end.  They see the benefits of accomplishing something and then set goals around those benefits. 

They get an advanced degree to make more money from a higher position at their company.  They go on a diet to be able to feel better about their body when it is bathing suite season.  They save money so they can go on an expensive vacation.

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How long will it take to reach your goal?

Scott Miker

When I started using the systems and habits approach to improvement I noticed something.  I noticed that I was finally starting to make progress towards my goals.

But that progress was at such a slow pace it would have been easy to disregard it.  I was inching forward when in my mind my passion wanted me to be sprinting towards the reward at the end.

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What is your morning routine?

Scott Miker

Everyone has a routine for how we start our days.  It could be that we wake up early, grab coffee and rush out the door.  It could be that we have a list of things to do before we even head to work.

But I feel that the morning is a very important time in our lives.  It sets the tone for the day.  On days when I wake up with something on my mind at work, I tend to have a more difficult time getting going and staying positive throughout the day but when I wake up excited for something the morning routine seems to float by with me getting everything done and feeling optimistic about the day.

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Seeing the world as a system

Scott Miker

Years ago I stumbled upon an article on Entrepreneur.com.  I was in the middle of running a business and always looking for insight into how to improve.

The article talked about successful businesses.  The author said that he had researched many businesses and the ones that were successful had one common element.

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The systems view shows us it isn’t that simple

Scott Miker

It seems that every so often we hear about an extremely successful person who falls from grace.  It could be that they were violent against others, that they tolerated unethical behavior from those around them, that they built a culture of corruption etc. 

The news media pounces immediately and brings forward any information that catches the headlines.  People form instant opinions on the situation based on their personal beliefs of the person.

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