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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.  


Scott Miker

Every few months I hear about another new product that promises to provide significant improvement in some aspect of our lives.  It convinces us that it is revolutionary and has finally figured out how to get results quickly, with little to no effort on our part.

The reason that these products come out isn’t because they are all effective.  It is because they are selling a product and realize that they can market that product to look effective.  They know the marketing tactics that work and they all use them.  

“We are quick to buy into programs that promise to help us make money, lose weight, or strengthen our relationships.  Then we spend the next few weeks dedicating our time and energy to that specific plan.  Eventually, we give up on these programs when the conflict with other aspects of our lives”  - Tom Rath in Well Being.  

I have learned that the only way to truly see improvement is to focus 100% on changing our systems and habits.  The systems and habits in our lives take control of our routines until they are so automatic that we do them automatically.  Trying to change this isn’t as easy and quick as the products’ marketing and advertising claims.  

By transforming various aspects of my life over the past decade or so I have realized that it can be easy.  There are simple, easy steps that can be taken to help you improve.  The key is repetition.  In order to see results we have to continue to make the same positive decisions and choose the same positive behaviors over and over again until they become automatic.  

While this may seem easy, the kicker is that it takes a long time to truly see results.  Making slight positive changes might not make an impact this month.  But if you continue to do those things over the next few years you will see incredible improvement.  

The problem that I have is that even mastering the systems in your life, you will still be tempted by the quick fix and discouraged when you don’t see results.  I still have many ups and downs and have not completely reached my goals.  But I have seen significant progress and I am much closer to those goals than ever before.  

Times that I struggle the most are times when I become impatient.  I want the end result right now.  Reducing my sense of entitlement during these times helps but I am still learning and growing with regards to being patient.  

I read about a Navy Seal who said that he was taught at Seals training to “let the situation dictate.”  As much control as we would like to have, I think we often have to understand that we cannot control everything.  Sometimes we have to let the situation dictate our response and continue to focus on slow improvement over time.  

If you find yourself struggling to stay on track, don’t get discouraged.  Remember that progress is the key, not perfection.  Continue to make progress towards your goals and understand that you may need to be patient from time to time.  But if you can master this, you will be able to avoid the gimmicky products that promise quick, easy, incredible results.