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The systems and habits approach to improvement relies on default bias

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.  

The systems and habits approach to improvement relies on default bias

Scott Miker

Using systems to manipulate our own habits in order to get better is a great way to succeed in almost any area.  We can use it to help our finances, health, education, career etc. 

The reason is simple.  The systems and habits approach takes advantage of the automatic response that our mind and body utilize to keep doing things that it feels are working. 

In Change Anything – The New Science of Personal Success, the authors say, “It turns out that you can actually make laziness a tool in your change arsenal.  For decades, social scientists have demonstrated that we humans have a default bias.  That’s a nice way of saying we would rather not mess with things once they’re arranged.  Once you get comfortable with a certain aspect of your life, say, the route you drive to work, you don’t easily make changes.  Once you’ve picked up a path that seems to work, you follow it for decades – even if a better one surfaces.  You save your brain capacity for heftier challenges.”

This is a very interesting concept for a couple reasons.  First, most of us try to use our higher brain capacity for solving habitual problems.  We assume we can out-think and use effort to make drastic changes in our lives.

But these areas are often ingrained in our mind as habit.  Habit takes over automatically and keeps us doing what we’ve already arranged.

The other interesting concept is that we will keep going with something even if something better surfaces.  Even if we realize our diet isn’t helping us to be healthy we will keep going because it’s already arranged.  It becomes significantly easier and more natural to do what we have been doing than do what is best.

Instead of seeing default bias as an obstacle that we have to overcome, we should look at it as a tool that we can use to help us.  We can turn the default bias into something productive.

But if we want to try to use the default bias, we can’t attack it the way most of attack our goals.  Most people set a goal and then expect effort to increase enough to reach the goal.

But if we want to change the default bias, it resists effort.  It doesn’t care that you were motivated today and worked out for 2 hours.  Tomorrow, it will have the same influence over you.  In fact, the influence it has over you won’t change unless you do something over and over and over. 

This means that instead of trying to out-work all our problems and rely on effort to reach all of our goals, we can try to simply work at changing the default bias. 

To do this, we have to shift our thinking.  We change from big goals with impactful results to small steps and making progress.  We change from putting forth as much effort as possible to putting forth a minimum effort but doing it repetitively. 

This will slowly start to shift our default bias.  We can then start to have the automatic actions we take and thoughts we think come from our designed path, instead of the path of least resistance. 

Default bias is a very important concept in systems and habits improvement because it is the core aspect of human psychology that we are attempting to leverage in order to succeed.  But if we can start to hone this aspect of our minds, we can start to build an incredible foundation of improvement on which we can grow and grow to reach our most important goals and dreams.