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Why the quick fix fails

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.  

Why the quick fix fails

Scott Miker

The quick fix has been around forever in one form or another and we all experience the attraction to the quick fix from time to time. 

It could be at work to overcome a problem that comes up and we see an easy shortcut around the problem.  It could be that we want to make more money and get sucked into a multilevel marketing program without fully investigating the products you sign on to sell.  It could simply be that a problem surfaces and we see a quick way to relieve the symptoms of the problem. 

A common example of a quick fix can usually be found by looking into the latest diet fad.  Diets are often versions of the quick fix to make it seem like getting healthy only involves one quick change, the food we eat.  But getting healthy is more than trying some gimmicky diet that might even be putting our health at risk in order to lose weight.

In systems thinking there are open systems and closed systems.  We can look at and evaluate systems based on the continuum between open and closed. 

A closed system is preferred in scientific inquiry.  We want to isolate the variables and then test variations on those variables.  This allows us to confidently state what the factors do without other variables impacting the results. 

But in life, these closed systems are often harder to find.  More often we are dealing with open systems.  Open systems operate in an environment with many factors and are impacted by outside factors. 

When we buy into the latest quick fix, we often view this fix as a closed system.  So we assume we can change this one small aspect and suddenly gain the results we desire.

But too often we miss that this is still an open system.  There are many factors and we can’t simply isolate one variable to gain the results we desire.   

Let’s look at a diet example.  If we decide that we are going to get healthy by doing the Adkins diet we will work to significantly reduce our carbohydrate intake. 

It might start out ok.  We buy some of the right foods and avoid the breads and sugar-filled snacks.   

But because it is an open system, other variables are going to impact us.  Maybe we go to a friend’s birthday party.  At the party is an assortment of cookies and cakes that we know that we shouldn’t eat but can’t resist the temptation. 

Or we run late to work and grab a sugary coffee on the way in with a donut.  We have a busy day and know we won’t be able to eat anything until late so we don’t want to be too hungry to get our work done. 

Or maybe we find that going to the grocery store represents too much temptation and it becomes increasingly more difficult to stay away from the foods we don’t want to consume.

Or maybe other family members or roommates buy too many of the foods that are off limits, but the temptation late at night when hunger hits becomes too much for us.

All of these are elements of the larger systems impacting the assumed closed system we decided to use.  Yet the system isn’t closed, it is an open system with many impacting variables. 

So in order to succeed when we are dealing with numerous open systems is to start small.  We start with a small step that we can do over and over again.  The key is that we do this consistently over time. 

After doing the same step over and over again you will find that it becomes automatic.  You think less and less about the step but become more and more likely to take that step.   

In essence you start to build a new habit.  This habit then grows and becomes more powerful over time.  The more powerful it becomes the more likely it is to stick. 

This is the essence of the systems and habits improvement process.  We develop powerful, positive habits that lead us towards success but do so by starting with very small, subtle changes.   

Donald L. Dewar is quoted as saying, “Changing people’s habits and way of thinking is like writing your instructions in the snow during a snowstorm.  Every twenty minutes you must rewrite your instructions.  Only with constant repetition will you create change”

So learn to avoid the quick fix whenever you encounter this perfectly designed, but closed, system knowing that in reality it isn’t a closed system.  It interacts much more with other elements and often puts blinders on us so we don’t see those other elements until we already started down the path.

Instead shift to forming new habits and systems in your life slowly over time.  By doing small, positive steps over and over, you will start to see the improvement you desire and still be able to tackle all of the other variables that will certainly show up from time to time.