Utilizing habits in our lives to improve and focusing on the systems around us can be a great way to move through life. With habits and systems, the focus is on slow, continuous improvement.
While this is a great way to improve your own life, this thinking has been around in businesses for years. Continuous improvement methods vary but they all have at their core the idea that it will take a lot of time so start slowly making things better now.
But this is difficult because most of us are impatient. We want the results now, and then maybe we will do the work. We certainly don’t want to do all the work unless we are assured the prize will be waiting for us at the finish line. Even if we are guaranteed to reach the finish line we have to know that it will come soon.
In Continuous Process Improvement, Simplifying Work Flow Systems, author George D. Robson states, “ There are many ways to accomplish change. However, to effect a fundamental change in the way people think and act is not easy and cannot be achieved in a short time. It takes us many years to become the people we are and to develop the habits that are totally ours.”
The reason we need to have patience and understand that it is a long process is because it was a long process to get where we are. All of the years we spent up until now solidifying the wrong habits and utilizing the wrong systems reinforce our current position.
But we were probably unaware of the patterns and the choices to solidify bad habits. The reason is simple. Habits form by doing the same thing over and over again. The more we do it, the more ingrained that habit becomes.
We may not have even focused on doing the same thing in many different scenarios. But each time we were presented with a choice we were more likely to choose the easy option. Then, next time, we are presented with a similar choice; we choose the easy option again.
What forms is a pattern. We tend to follow self-gratification. We tend to avoid challenges. The reason is that we are wired to follow pleasure and avoid pain. So we choose short-term pleasure over long-term success and happiness. We avoid a difficult challenge today even if it will result in a positive future. The more we do this the more this system gets reinforced.
So changing this way of thinking takes time. We have to understand that we have to make difficult choices over and over again in order to truly change.
The systems and habits approach to improvement relies on this principle and changes the amount of change. We don’t start with the full, difficult change. We start with a very small, easy piece of the full change.
Then, after we spend enough time making that easy, small piece more and more automatic, we add more. We take a step-by-step approach and at each step we build stronger, positive habits. After years of doing this, we finally start to experience the long-term benefits. We start to see the results we crave, but only after this long process of habit and system changes.
If you want to improve some aspect of your life, then look to the various business methods for continuous improvement to gain insight into the difficulties of positive change. Their principles and methods usually relate to our personal lives even though they focus solely on business practices and operations. This can be a great way to start slowly improving and getting better in business but can also be applied to our personal goals and aspirations for improvement.