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Human nature is to crave the quick fix

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.  

Human nature is to crave the quick fix

Scott Miker

We all want to see results of hard work quickly.  If we are putting ourselves in an uncomfortable position, we don’t want to remain there for very long.

That is the drive that many use as fuel to drive harder and harder at their goals.  They work extremely hard so that the goal can be reached quicker.  The mindset is to suffer now so that later we can stop suffering and enjoy the fruits of our labor. 

Most of the time this helps motivate us to do the hard work necessary to see results.  We save up our money so that we can go on the dream vacation or we exercise really hard for the upcoming wedding. 

But if we step back we can likely spot a pattern of behavior that ends worse off than when it started.  If we remove the short-term perspective and instead opt for a longer-term view, we can see that all of the hurrying is actually causing us to fail in the future. 

Pushing and working hard to reach a goal is a good thing, but taken without a long term mindset it simulates the junkie looking for the quick fix of drugs to satisfy cravings.  This behavior ultimately adds to future cravings and making it more and more difficult to get away from this vicious cycle.

So how do we change that?  How can we get past the craving of a quick fix and settle on something much more lasting?

The answer is to work on building the right systems in our lives.  Our behavior is made up of many small habits that we utilize to help us focus on the new, unique experiences and process the normal routines automatically.  Understanding this (along with many other factors that all interact), we can start to see systems that suddenly make our current situation make sense. 

We can start to leverage the idea of systems thinking in order to improve.  This thinking drives at the systematic elements, the patterns of behavior, and then focuses on improving slowly over time. 

But at first this often feels foreign.  Instead of putting all your efforts and motivation and working hard now, the systems thinker will put all their efforts and motivation into crafting or adjusting the habits in their life.  They will emphasize a slow and steady change over the quick bolt of sudden difference. 

One of the ways that you can start to use this approach is by starting small.  Instead of starting with the outcome in mind and then doing as much as you can towards that, start by finding a very small change that will help you improve.  Then work hard to maintain that change over time.

What this means is that it can be more beneficial to have a very easy first step.  Starting small makes it easier to keep going than going full speed immediately.  Over time, when these small changes start to become habit, then you can build on them.  With a solid foundation it is much easier to continue later on. 

With so much emphasize in our lives on getting results instantly, it is guiding us in the wrong direction.  Instead of slowly helping us improve over time, we are only disrupting our habits temporarily.  But sure enough once the motivation wears off we are left with the same habits we had originally that helped create the need for change in the first place.

Break away from that cycle and look to systems thinking for insight into how to change the system around a goal instead of just using an oversimplification of the problem.  This may not get you enough money to go on vacation next month or help you drop 30 lbs for your upcoming wedding, but in 5 years after the quick fix would have turned back into the unhealthy set of habits, you will have grown and improved far beyond what can be done in the short term and built a foundation on which you can continue to improve, instead of constantly trying to solve the same problems.