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Identify and learn from high leverage moments to succeed

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.  

Identify and learn from high leverage moments to succeed

Scott Miker

There are moments that mean more than others when we are trying to improve and reach a goal.  But many improvement strategies ignore them and assume every minute is the same. 

It could be the moment our friend walks in our dorm to see if we want to hang out that leads us away from studying for our upcoming final.  It could be driving home from work when we decide we are too tired to stop at the gym.

It could the minute our boss starts adding work to our plate that drives us to want to grab a cigarette or brownie.  It could be the morning when we just want that sugary coffee to help get us moving. 

These crucial moments are actually much more important than other times when we have a specific goal.  They provide leverage and usually can be pointed to whether we succeed and conquer these moments or fail from caving in during these moments. 

In Change Anything, the authors say, “Once you’ve found your crucial moments (and they’ll change as you solve certain problems and new ones emerge), create the rules you’ll follow during those high-leverage moments.  Create the rules now, when you’re not being tempted and you’re thinking clearly.  These rules, or vital behaviors, should spell out exactly what you’ll do when faced with a crucial moment.”

Using rules is a great way to tackle these moments.  It could be a rule that you will drink at least one bottle of water before reaching for that sugary coffee or that you will spend 2 minutes visualizing something positive after a difficult conversation with your boss.  These rules can be absolutely anything, the key is that you come up with some and try them to see if they help. 

Work through different rules and make sure they aren’t so difficult that you won’t possibly follow them when the difficult moments emerge.  Instead try simple rules that get you to shift your behavior slightly and then add more as you start to follow the new rules consistently. 

But we will fail.  We can’t possibly expect 100% compliance to these rules even though we are the ones that created them.  Instead of using this as a reason to not even try, use this to help maintain a flexible approach that is always learning and trying out new ways to beat these moments that too often beat us.

The authors of Change Anything then say, “Don’t expect to be able to identify all of your crucial moments and vital behaviors at the beginning.  Your progress won’t follow a straight line.  You’ll hit binges and setbacks, but treat these challenges the way any scientist would.  Examine your failures with curiosity and concern, not self-condemnation.  You’ll quickly discover that you learn more from your failures than from your successes.  The times and situations where you fail are your new crucial moments, and each crucial moment you identify becomes a stepping-stone to your success as you create new vital behaviors – tailored to your latest challenge.”

So start to find these behaviors that we can classify as crucial moments and start trying different rules to help beat those moments.  This will start you on a new path towards success. 

In systems thinking this is called finding and adjusting leverage points in a system.  These leverage points are absolutely essential to the system staying balanced.  But by adjusting these points we shift the system and change the observed outcome from the system. 

Everyone has crucial moments that direct where they go in life.  How we tackle these moments will push us towards success and failure so start to tackle these moments with simple rules that you can follow or adjust to get you on the path towards improvement.