The first step to making positive change in your life is to evaluate where you are. Right now becomes the starting point so it is crucial that you have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as well as your most pressing areas of concern. This will give you a solid foundation on which to start building systems and habits that reflect where you want to go.
The first question is simple; What is your current system? What are you currently doing that is impacting your desired goal. If you want to pay off credit card debt then you need to understand the systems that you are currently using to earn money and spend money. Are you using automatic withdrawal and automatically distributing your earnings to various funds? Are you cashing the full paycheck and saying that you will save or invest what remains at the end of the month? Do you have an emergency fund set up for unexpected expenses?
If you are interested in growing the personal relationships in your life, how do you currently communicate? What do you do when there is a conflict? What do you do to make sure you are communicating on a regular basis?
If you want to lose weight you will evaluate your eating and exercise habits as well as any stress-related eating habits that you have. If you want to read more, then you can determine when you have time during the day that is consistent and can be used every day to work towards your goal. If you want a promotion at work you will look at your current work habits to see areas of improvement, which are usually detailed in your employee performance evaluation.
The more you use systems to build your habits and drive you towards success, the more you will be able to identify areas of habit. You can see if your desire to exercise is in the morning but you may have a habit of staying up late at night which then throws off your routine. You can identify when you start over and can custom build your routines, such as during a job change or moving into a new residence.
Joyce Meyer says in Making Good Habits Breaking Bad Habits that “It’s amazing how powerful your subconscious mind is. Every single time to do something, your subconscious programs it into your brain. The more you do it, the more entrenched the program becomes.”
This is why it is more difficult than simply trying to think differently. It takes actual behavior change to start to change our subconscious mind around our habits. But with time we can make it automatic to follow the newly developed system. This will take away the effort component and will rely on our bodies natural way of handling repetition.
The other important aspect of understanding your current systems, is that this will key you in on the motivators and distractors that you will likely face. If you align your new positive habits in a way that reinforces your current mindset, it will be easier to stick with them. If you decide that you need to make drastic shifts in the way you do things in order to accomplish your goals, this will allow you to fully comprehend the traps and difficulties in order to put measures in place to address those.
For me it was difficult, initially, to see the systems and habits in my life. I would start out thinking that “this is just the way that I am doing it and I can easily change.” But after a few failed attempts I started to realize that I need to focus even more on the principles of building systems and face challenges head-on.
It took me a long time to develop a solid exercise routine. I initially thought that I knew enough about exercise so I started to jog and work out. The problem was that I never stayed with it for more than a couple weeks. I didn’t build a new habit. I forced myself to be someone who I am not. Eventually it caught up with me and I would quit. It wasn't until I started extremely slowly and found an optimal time during the day that I would finally start to stick with it long enough to see results. That was the only way to shift my mindset - by focusing on repeated behavior change.
Whatever it is that you want to achieve, make sure you understand why you are where you are. Remember that if you want what you don’t have you have to do what you haven’t yet done. The systems and habits in our lives are powerful. In order to use this power to transform your life, you have to be able to evaluate and adjust your routines to align with where you want to go.