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See the full picture to understand your role

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.  

See the full picture to understand your role

Scott Miker

Recently I read an article that looked at health and fitness apps on the iPhone and discussed which ones were the best.

The article started out innocently enough with the author downloading and trying several apps at a time.  After quitting each app, she would explain why the app was a failure and wouldn’t help someone reach his or her goals.

Soon into the article it started to sound very redundant.  It seems that the apps could not hold her interest as much as other apps such as Facebook and News sites.

This is a classic example of using linear thinking instead of systems thinking to view a situation.  Instead of seeing all of the interacting factors, she honed in on one factor that she could then put all the blame on.

Instead of holding herself accountable and using the apps as tools, she expected the apps to do all the work.  When the app couldn’t do the pushups for her or exercise for her, she deemed it a failure.

Many times we get caught up in assuming something else is responsible for our success.  If our investments don’t help us reach our financial goals then it becomes the fault of those investments or the financial adviser that directed us to them.  It doesn’t ever seem to mean that we did something wrong, yet we are the ones usually responsible.

If you want to reach a goal, don’t just expect something or someone else to do it for you.

I remember years ago when my brother started a fitness center.  Working with him to increase membership I was amazed at how many people felt that whether they used the membership or not and whether they lost weight or not was solely the responsibility of the fitness center. 

They would come in once or twice and then claim, “it didn’t work.”  Somehow they missed that they would have to have a major role in their success or failure.  They were ultimately responsible for reaching their goal.

I can relate to this thinking.  Many times I have taken that mindset, blaming those around me instead of realizing my own faults.  It helps us protect our ego.  Even now that I try as much as possible to use systems thinking instead of linear thinking, I still fall into that trap of blaming others instead of holding myself accountable.   

So instead of looking at the author and judging her because of her shortsighted approach, we should take this as a view into the human psyche.  We should realize that we all do this from time to time. 

We hone in on an aspect that played a role and assign full responsibility to it.  That is the classic linear thinking approach.  A better approach is to rely on systems thinking which will show us that there many factors, some that we control and some that are outside of our control.

That allows us to take control of our lives.  Instead of someone else being responsible for our failures, we should realize that the role we play is the reason we ultimately fail.  We have to account for the factors we don’t have control over, but ultimately success or failure resides with us, not some app.