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What is the first step?

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.  

What is the first step?

Scott Miker

You may have read a few articles on systems thinking and how to use systems and habits to improve.  Now you may be wondering how to get started.

This is common.  It is common because systems thinking seems so complex and there are a lot of different ways to look at a system. 

But you don’t need to understand all of the ins and outs of systems thinking in order to benefit from it.  All you need is to take a little step forward.  Most likely the more steps you take the more you will understand systems thinking.

If you sit on the sidelines and just think about systems without actively trying to manipulate them in your life, you will always just remain a critic or an audience member.  But the key is to move past that and become an active systems thinker and use that insight to improve your life and the lives of those around you.

But if you don’t fully understand systems thinking it may be tough to know where to start. 

The best advice I have… start small.  Start with some small action/behavior that you wish to turn into a habit.  Make sure it is smaller than what you assume you can do over and over in order to make it incredibly simple and easy.  Make it really easy.

Then focus solely on consistency.  How can you take that and make it a regular part of your routine?  How can you make sure that you take this new pathway each time instead of falling to old habits?

Then make sure you have the tools around you in order to keep going.  Don’t let something derail your efforts that could have been predicted.


Doing this relies on the 3 aspects of a good system.  A good system is:

1. Simple

2. Sticky

3. Self-regulating


By starting with a small step, doing it consistently, and looking for aspects that might derail your efforts you are utilizing all 3.

It is simple because you are starting with a very easy action.  The easier and simpler, the better.

It will become stickier and stickier over time due to the repeated pattern of doing it consistently over time.  The more you do it the more you will feel compelled to do it. 

It will become self-regulating because you will avoid many of the small elements that could knock you off course.  If you want to start eating healthier and set the goal to eat 1 serving of vegetables every day, then to make sure the system becomes self-regulating you have to make sure you buy enough vegetables to keep the system going. 

Smokers don’t quit because they forgot to buy cigarettes so don’t let yourself forget to buy veggies to keep with your new positive system.  If you were a smoker and ran out of cigarettes, you would head to the store to buy some.  Take that same approach with your positive habits to make sure they are self-regulating.  Then as you eat them you will automatically start to think about going and getting more.

Whatever you do, the best approach is to start.  Start small.  Start with a small amount of knowledge about using systems to achieve a goal.  By starting you will start to live the systems and feel the resistance when you try to make a system change.

Then you can better understand the detail around systems thinking.  You can better see how the systems in your personal life are similar to that of a large corporation.  You will see that processes and procedures in a business are like habits and routines in our personal lives.  But you will be learning and applying those concepts at the same time, moving towards your goal and improving along the way.