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Systems and habits changes are not usually smooth

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.  

Systems and habits changes are not usually smooth

Scott Miker

Whenever we make the decision to change something about ourselves that is ingrained in our thoughts and behaviors, we will likely face resistance.  This additional challenge can become very difficult to navigate through. 

Our bodies and minds are used to their routines and making changes will always mean difficulties and hesitation.  By relying on the principles of systems and habits we can slowly start to make change.  We start with easy and turn something small into a habit.  Then we move on and grow the new habit until we are reaching our goals.

But there are some interesting things that I have noticed about this process.  First, once I get into my new routine it seems to move somewhat smoothly.  I notice several months of work that seem to fly by and suddenly it becomes easier to continue with the new routine rather than quit or move to something else.

But I also found that I occasionally get off track.  It usually starts with one missed routine and suddenly turns into several.  I can usually weather the storm for a little while but if too many things enter my life and cause a change, I tend to get off track.  

Here is an example.  My weekday eating habits are fairly solid.  I eat a lot of vegetables and fiber and avoid a lot of fatty foods.  But I am more lenient on the weekends.  Where this becomes a challenge is when things come up that vary my normal weekday routine.  If I take some time off of work and take a vacation, or if there are several birthday celebrations upcoming, or if I suddenly feel additional stress at work I may get off track enough to start to see it reflected on the scale.  

I used to get very frustrated with this.  I would notice after a long weekend away that I gained 5 lbs.  But I started to realize that once I got back to my routines the weight would come off fairly quickly.  It might take me a month to first drop a couple pounds but after a long weekend I suddenly had an extra 5 pounds to lose.  I started referring to this as “fake weight.”  I called it this because it would not last once I got back to my routine.  This helped me from letting it bother me and cause more disruption in my routine.

The other thing that I noticed would be times when I was just humming along I wouldn’t seem to be making progress.  I would be increasing my exercise routine but not seeing weight loss or I would be working hard at work but didn’t seem to be getting the results I expected.  I started to realize that I often slowed down or quit at this point.  I would get frustrated and let it affect my routine.  But I started to realize that if I kept pushing I would eventually cross some sort of threshold and then see the results that I expected.  I would quickly see the results that the new routine created.  I started to call this “the slide.”  It could be an unexpected promotion at work or an influx of money I didn’t expect.  Whatever it was I was working towards, it didn’t seem to happen in a smooth, mathematical line, rather a wave of ups and downs.  

Going through habit and system change is important because we start to learn different aspects about how we think and function.  I now can identify times when I will get off track and when I need to step it up and get back on my routine.  It is always changing but still seems headed in the right direction.  

I no longer let “fake weight” cause me to stress out after a bad weekend.  I know to keep pushing even if I am not seeing results because there could be “a slide” right around the corner.  I realize that challenges usually just mean a need for an increased focus and effort on my part.  As long as I am keeping up with the new system changes I will eventually start to get the results I am after.