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Time alone doesn’t change things

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.  

Time alone doesn’t change things

Scott Miker

There is a famous quote by Andy Warhol where he says “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  I think this is a powerful quote that empowers us to take charge of our lives.  

But I don’t think it is quite that simple.  I think the reality is that time does change things but it does so randomly.  If you want to IMPROVE over time, that is where you actually have to change them yourself.  

It truly is up to us to improve over time.  Nobody can do it for you.  Nobody can incorporate the right habits and systems and follow through with the consistent action that will take you towards an improved version of yourself.  

There may be times when a situation arises and you suddenly and quickly change some aspect of your life.  It may be a right of passage or an experience that you struggle through and end up a different person.  While this happens and tends to get the most attention, the reality is that for you to improve, you have to adjust the behaviors and actions in your life.  The way to do this and have it stick, is to work on improving the systems and habits in your life.  

The routines, processes and patterns in our lives are important.  Most people think that after a few days or weeks on a diet they will see incredible results.  But they don’t realize that they were headed in the opposite direction for years.  Turning things around won’t happen overnight.  They only happen with repeated and consistent action.  

Years ago I attended a stock trading seminar.  I was fascinated by the information but one thing really stuck out to me.  They emphasized that you shouldn’t go against the trend.  They emphasized that “the trend is your friend.”  If a stock is moving strongly in one direction, don’t expect a sudden shift in the other direction.  This doesn’t just apply to stocks.  If everything in your life is headed in one direction it will take time and hard work to reverse that trend.  

This information is incredibly easy to say, hear and understand but incredibly difficult to implement.  One reason that I have found it to be difficult is that the environment around us in constantly changing.  We may start to get on a healthy track and then suddenly get laid off, or have trouble in our relationships, or have a family member become ill.  When I first started to work on improvement this always seemed to happen and would negate all of my hard work as I fell back to my bad habits.  

The key to sticking with new positive habits and systems is to remain flexible and lenient.  This sounds like the complete opposite to systems and habits.  The best way to keep going forward is to understand that things will change and you will struggle.  The key is that you keep finding a way to move forward.

A heard a quote once that came from a Navy SEAL that said they were taught throughout their training to “let the situation dictate.”  Once I heard this I wrote it on a sticky note and placed it at my desk at work.  It helps me stay relaxed and in control when things start to change unexpectedly.  

I have one additional quote on a sticky note next to my desk.  It says “control your own destiny or someone else will.”  While this seems paradoxical to the other quote, they represent a very strong belief that it is up to us to improve and create the life we want but have to understand that the situation will dictate how that path truly forms.  Take control of the areas in our lives that we can control but become flexible and understand that when things happen outside of our control we have to adjust and respond accordingly.  

So time does change things but if we want to improve and move forward, we have to take control of our habits and systems.  The changes associated with time are random and we cannot count on them to move us towards success and happiness.  But by being flexible to changes and constantly working to improve we will ultimately reach a level of success we can be proud of.