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A habit is a reinforcing feedback loop

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.  

A habit is a reinforcing feedback loop

Scott Miker

In systems thinking, feedback loops are important to understand how a certain aspect of the system functions.  There are several types of feedback loops and several situations where they are present.

In our personal improvement journey we can find ways to utilize feedback loops to help us reach a goal.  One way is to create a new habit.

When we put effort to grow a new positive habit that habit then provides benefit.  As we keep going we keep building the habit more and more.  The habit, in return, gets stronger and provides more and more benefit back to us. 

The more benefit we gain back from the habit, the more we want to keep going with the habit.  The more we keep going with the habit the more benefit we receive.

Hopefully now you can start to see the cyclical pattern forming.  In systems thinking we often think in circles.  This is a good example of how that reinforcing feedback loop forms a circle. 

The more we perform the behavior the more benefit we get from the behavior.  The more benefit we get from the behavior the more we perform the behavior and so on.

You can form a great new habit without understanding anything about systems thinking.  If you are diligent and work to keep going long enough for it to start to become habit, it will provide benefit and become more and more automatic. 

This is why the systems and habits approach focuses so much on habit.  Forming a new habit can have an incredible benefit.  And doing this leverages the work we do in a way where we gain more and more value over time. 

Hopefully seeing this can start to open you up to the power of habit and the power of thinking systematically.  The next step is to apply this to an area of your life to improve. 

This is where it can get challenging.  In addition to the new feedback loop you are trying to create, there are many balancing feedback loops that will resist that change. 

A balancing feedback loop tries to keep things as they are and will provide a resisting force that grows stronger as your effort increases.  So if you suddenly want to change your morning routine, the current habits around your morning routine will push back and will try to drive you to keep doing what you are already doing. 

Therefore the best way to get past these balancing feedback loops is to start very slowly with very small steps.  Instead of drastic changes all of a sudden, we start with very small changes.  And as we keep going they become more and more powerful.  Then we can add more until we start to see the results we are after. 

But if we don’t take the time to start slowly and build a new habit the old habits (balancing feedback loops) will kick in and resist any attempt to change. 

The systems and habits approach to improvement can be a great way to accomplish your goals and set a new course for your life.  It uses knowledge of systems and how to develop systems to accomplish a goal. 

Many business people have used systems thinking for decades to grow their businesses.  They use processes and procedures to drive consistent behaviors that deliver some value that they can then monetize in some way. 

But we can take the same approach and use the same knowledgebase to achieve anything, not just in business but also in our personal lives.  This opens up our future to be what we want it to be, instead of what develops by default.  Utilizing habits as reinforcing feedback loops is just one technique that follows this framework.  Explore the many ways that you can use this insight to reach goals in your life.  What you will find is a new way to improve, that you can then apply to anything.