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Start from scratch

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.  

Start from scratch

Scott Miker

Recently our refrigerator started to break down.  We noticed it one Saturday morning when we started making breakfast and realized much of the food in our freezer was thawed.

We tried to troubleshoot the problem but realized quickly that the 11-year old unit was probably not worth saving.  It was more economical to replace it rather than pay someone to come fix it.

We set out to find a good deal on a fridge that would meet the needs of our family.  We searched online, talked to people who recently bought fridges and did whatever research we could do to quickly replace the old appliance.

We also had to take all of our food and find ways to salvage it.  We put some in a small fridge in the garage and took the rest to my parents’ house to store in their basement fridge so the food wouldn’t go bad. 

While this was a slight inconvenience, it got me thinking.  Suddenly routines and habits broke down.   

I never realized just how much routine and habit goes along with a working fridge.  In the mornings I would grab my lunch from it, grab a cold drink, make breakfast and head out for work.  In the evenings we would go to the fridge when we started making dinner.  The fridge was constantly being used throughout the day whenever we needed a cold drink or a glass of water. 

But suddenly I would go to the fridge and realize that part of my routine was gone.  I worked around the issue and found ways to get by without too much of an inconvenience but I started to see some benefits.

One of the first things we noticed is that we had to think about dinners a bit more.  We couldn’t rely on having food in the fridge.  That meant we couldn’t store leftovers but it also meant we had to either buy already-made meals or make them from scratch. 

We started to change our thinking from being solely on what is now missing, to what we have.  We started to think, “we don’t have eggs but we do have a whole host of ingredients that don’t need to be cold.  Maybe we can buy some fresh stuff right before dinner to cook.  Maybe we can use up some stuff that we have had for a while and never used.”

As we started to make things from scratch and had to think about the various elements of the recipes that we have available I started to see an interesting correlation to other problems and obstacles. 

First, I realized that we would all hit obstacles along our journey to improve and succeed.  Everyone does.  There are many ways around obstacles and if we think through the problem we can usually find some workarounds.  Without the problem we never have to do this, which means we just keep following the routine without thinking about a better way. 

I also realized that invariably when we hit major obstacles, sometimes it is better to just start from scratch.  Start from the beginning.  This allows us to see some habits and routines that formed that we may are not aware of. 

It calls attention to those systems in our lives that drive our behavior, yet go unnoticed.  We can use these challenging moments as times to stop and think about what we are doing to make sure we are going in the right direction. 

Sometimes a broken appliance or sudden problem is just an inconvenience.  But with that inconvenience take a moment to start from scratch and see what habits have been built and what routines formed.  This can clue you in to areas where you can start over.  You can then start to build habits that support your goals and dreams and push you towards success.