The systems and habits approach to improvement is all about making consistent behavior changes to help us reach our goals. It focuses our effort on changing our recurring behaviors in order to build better routines and processes.
Doing this will have some great impacts on our life. We will start to feel more in control, we will build confidence that we can change and improve, and we will start to be able to tackle any aspect of our life that we wish to see grow and get better.
As we do this, we start to feel a certain outside force. In the initial stages this outside force feels like resistance, pushing against us. It tries to get us to quit early and tells us that it is pointless to try and improve and that we will ultimately fail.
The secret is that this outside force is actually internal. It comes from inside us and from our fears. It is us who starts to feel insecure. Any outside force that does exist multiplies by our own internal response.
But as we keep going, we start to build better systems in our lives. With better systems we start to see results. With results we start to see the proof of our efforts.
But what many people don’t know is that many times this resistance turns into another external force. It turns into a supporting force that seems to guide us and assist us as we move forward.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says, “Why have I stressed professionalism so heavily in the preceding chapters? Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
Then Pressfield emphasizes a technique called Setting the Minimum that can be used to create art, get in shape, eat better, quit smoking etc.
In its most basic form, setting the minimum is the process of setting a small step to be completed every day. If you are trying to write a novel, then set the goal to write at least 1 page every day. You can do more if you want but you can only decide to do more or not after writing the first page. (Jerry Seinfeld uses this system to write jokes.)
This translates to exercise also. You set to exercise for 10 minutes every day. After that you can do more if you want but you don’t have to. (Jennifer Aniston talks about using this mentality to keep herself in shape).
The reality is that this can be applied to many different areas that you want to improve. It doesn’t just have to be writing or exercising.
Pressfield explains the value of using this system. He says, “Because when we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unseen forces enlist in our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose.”
While this seems to mean that success will come immediately due to some miracle force this isn’t the case. It just means that you will start to see connection to other aspects and to other people that aren’t easily explained without talking about this external force.
It doesn’t mean some miracle will happen and you will suddenly achieve everything you have ever wanted within a few days. Most people have such unrealistic expectations around the path to success that they don’t see just how long of a journey it is. What it does mean is that things will start to support your efforts rather than feeling like they are pushing against you.
In effect, you turned the resistance into support. That support will be internal and will also start to manifest in external sources, just as resistance seemed to combine with external factors to become even stronger.
Keep pushing each day and taking a small step each day. As you do you will start to reinforce your purpose and will keep getting you further and further along in your journey.