One of the things that come from taking the systems and habits approach to improvement is that we start to see the complexity around our goals. We see that there are many factors and they all play a role.
Some of these factors are things that will strengthen the current systems and habits and make it difficult to change. Some are things that will be impacted by a new system change.
As a systems thinker it might mean that we should stop everything and think about the problem until we know everything. The argument says we need to know and understand every aspect of the system in order to improve.
But that approach would just lead to analysis paralysis. Putting too little emphasis on behaviors and actions leads to a mindset that starts to fear failure. We can’t fear failure; we have to embrace it as part of the journey towards improvement.
But going at a problem without a clear understanding of the full system leads to a rushed and hurried approach that will likely fail due to an unforeseen circumstance.
So how do we balance between pushing forward and making sure we think through the solution?
One answer can be found by looking at Agile Project Management techniques. Agile is a methodology that values action but also allows for constant recalibration of the steps in the project.
Basically a team sets out with a high level goal in mind but attacks that goal in short iterations. They may spend two weeks focused on one aspect of the project. Once they complete that aspect they evaluate and make more adjustments. They keep doing this over and over again, often times coming up with a solution that couldn’t be envisioned before setting out to reach the goal.
The team has to constantly reprioritize all of their ideas and strategies to focus on the most important aspect right now. They are constantly moving the various parts of the project to get the most value from each iteration.
We can take the principles behind Agile Project Management and apply them to improvement in our personal life as well.
We can constantly look to reevaluate our goals and strategies and continue to improve upon each small step we take until we start to see major improvement.
But we have to be aware of change for change sake. We can’t change just to change. The change has to be a deliberate attempt to IMPROVE something. It has to be focused on improving an action or behavior that will result in something positive.
We can steal from many different strategies that come out of the business world and apply them to our personal lives in order to develop into a better, more rounded person. Agile project management has some great advantages to other project management methodologies and if we really hone in on what makes that approach successful we can see techniques that can easily apply to our personal goals and self improvement as much as it applies to a corporate project or new company initiative. By taking an iterative approach we can continue to make small improvements over and over again which will lead to major improvement in the long run.