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Everyone can improve

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.  

Everyone can improve

Scott Miker

Everyone is capable of improvement.  Regardless of what you have accomplished in life or what you already tried and failed, you can improve, you can get better.

This might scare some people because if this is true then they feel they have wasted much of their life.  But it is true.  Everyone can improve and get better.

The reason so many people simply go through the motions is that they never really found out how to improve.  Sure a teacher may have told them what to do or a boss told them what not to do.  But how do you actually get better at something?

The answer might seem like common sense.  If a child asked you how they could be better at drawing or math or playing piano, the response would be to practice and spend more time doing it. 

But for most of us, the things we want to improve aren’t things we want to spend more time doing.  We want the benefits of exercise but don’t want to do the work.  We want the advantages that come from an advanced degree but don’t want to do homework.  We want the ability to go on vacations without the guilt that comes from spending so much money so quickly, but we don’t want to have to tighten up our budget.

So how can you start to spend more time doing something that you don’t like but know you should do?  How can you get yourself to do it?

There are a few things that will help make it easier.  First, don’t dive right in to something you hate.  If you hate running don’t force yourself to run in order to get in shape.  Instead try biking, or yoga, or a million other things that you might actually enjoy a little bit but still allow you to move and get exercise.    

Second, start incredibly small.  Don’t find something that you enjoy and then do it until you hate it.  If you don’t mind running, don’t push yourself every day to run more and more.  That will just lead to exhaustion and push you to quit.

These two principles are the basis of the systems and habits approach to improvement.  Find some small step that you don’t hate, and then do it over and over again.

The set the minimum technique says to set that very small amount as your daily goal.  Do that every day.  On days when you finish and feel like doing more then keep going.  But the next day, start back over and do the minimum you previously set.

This will make it much easier to keep going.  You aren’t making the hurdle higher and higher until you finally give up.  You leave the hurdle where it is and get to jump as high as you want each time, knowing that the next hurdle is still the same size. 

This starts to build the mentality that it is easy and fun.  The consistency starts to make it an automatic behavior.  It starts to become habit and part of your routine and something you just do, rather than something you hate but are forcing yourself to keep doing.

But most people never use this approach.  Instead they want results now and refuse to believe that a small step can be beneficial.  So they overdo it until they quit. 

But if we get away from this approach, improvement isn’t just possible it is probable.  Just as the child learning piano will benefit from keeping at it, we can improve by continuing to do it until the habit makes it easier and easier to keep going and do more and more. 

Everyone can improve.  It is just that most people have no idea how to actually improve.  If you unlock that, anything becomes possible.   You can then use the techniques in many different areas and improve all aspects of your life.