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Can change be easy?

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.  

Can change be easy?

Scott Miker

Most people think of changing as a grueling, painful process that forces us to use our willpower to the max in order to change some aspect of our lives.  If we want to improve, our only option is to be miserable until the change is complete.

This is a horrible perspective on change.  With this perspective, it is no wonder why most people fail to make significant improvements in their lives.  They put the odds against them by assuming that willpower is the key to lasting change.  It isn’t.

When it comes to improving by changing something in your life you have three characteristics to manage.  The change can be made quickly.  The change can be effective.  The change can be easy.

But we have to learn that the strategy we use relies on one or more of those to create the change.  If we use sheer willpower and effort, we are usually sacrificing easy to have the change come quickly and still be effective.  This is the way most people think we have to change, quickly and with a ton of painful effort. 

There are major problems with this strategy.  Just look around at all the people who assume they will just eat less to lose weight or they will just not buy anything so they can save up money to pay off their credit card debt.  It sounds great, but hurts like crazy when you are actually doing the work.  And chances are, once the change is complete you will fall back to your old habits and old results. 

Another option that people choose is the gimmick.  They find someone promoting a quick and easy solution.  But often what happens is that this quick easy solution that sounds too good to be true, is in fact, too good to be true.  You start out with high expectations but then fade away thinking you were tricked because it didn’t work for you.

The get rich quick scheme falls into this category as well.  Promises of riches without any effort drive consumers to buy this new secret, only to find out that it just doesn’t work. 

Another option is the shortcut.  Similar to the gimmick, this is usually in the form of some type of new innovation or workaround that promises to be all three – quick, easy and effective.  While every so often this legitimately provides helpful guidance on change with the invention of a new technology, most of the time these are just ways of creating a side effect that might just be worse than the change you are striving for.

Think of a new diet pill that promises you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight.  It might work, but also might have devastating side effects that damage your health rather than helping it.  Yes you might lose some weight without much effort in a short amount of time.  But time and time again when these come out they are soon followed up with lawsuits around the various ways they were detrimental to one’s health rather than improving it. 

Another example is to go outside of the rules.  We can shun the legality around acquiring money and find a way to scam people out of money.  The Ponzi scheme comes to mind, with it creating profit quickly and easily.  But they are breaking the law and risking losing it all if they are caught and thrown in jail.

With all of the various options that we see people use to change it can be deceiving because there is a technique that sacrifices the one element people are usually not willing to sacrifice in order to make it easy and effective. 

The systems and habits approach to improvement uses very small steps done consistently over time to create new routines and structures in one’s life.  These then go on to help the person change.  This is done slowly over time, rather than quickly. 

So in effect you are sacrificing quick to be easy and effective.  For most people, they are not willing to even entertain a change strategy that isn’t quick.  They need it now.

But instead of assuming results will come immediately, we start to shift the way we do things.  We make lasting changes but do them in small steps rather than giant leaps.  The benefit is that over time it becomes more and more valuable. 

While everyone else is relying on techniques that sacrifice the future for now, the systems and habits approach sacrifices now for the future.  In time, those sacrificing the future will keep starting over while those sacrificing now for the future have built a great structure on which to continue building. 

Change can certainly be easy.  But for change to be easy and effective, we have to push away our attachment to having the change now.  We have to be willing to delay the full impact of the change in order to create a lasting change.  But if we do this we can do it over and over and keep building on the change over time, starting with a very small step and turning it into a major shift.  And we can do this in multiple interconnecting areas giving us more power in our ability to effectively improve over time.