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Have a problem? Identify a system to fix

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.  

Have a problem? Identify a system to fix

Scott Miker

Problems are everywhere.  We all have them.  They surface for everyone and each time a problem comes up, we will likely respond in a similar fashion. 

We start to develop a habit of handling problems a specific way.  Do we take it personal and get upset about it?  Do we try to calmly work through the problem to see why it occurred and look for ways to eliminate the problem from occurring in the future?

Most people come face to face with a problem and can only focus on getting rid of the discomfort that problem presents.  They then go about putting out the fire as quickly as possible.

But in doing this, they aren’t solving the root causes of the problem.  It is likely that the problem has deep roots within the systems and habits in our lives.  If we don’t address the problem at this level, then it will likely happen again and again.

Years ago I worked with someone who had a difficult time seeing past the symptoms of the problem to see the real problem.   

She found herself constantly fighting with her bank over the overdraft fees.  She didn’t manage her money very well so she would head to work and stop for coffee, cigarettes, lottery tickets and candy. 

Every so often she would come in steaming.  She would complain about how she got an overdraft fee.  I saw in her hands all the goodies she just bought.  She never put it together than the overdraft fees weren’t because the bank was evil; it was because she recklessly spent and didn’t track where her money went.

One day she told me she solved the problem.  She then told about a new bank account that she was creating that didn’t charge overdraft fees.  She said they had some type of overdraft protection insurance. 

In her mind this was a great solution to a problem she was having.  But this didn’t change how she managed her money and actually made it more difficult for her to save money because she was paying for overdraft protection. 

While it might seem easy to see the flaws in her approach, we ALL have areas of our lives where we do this.  I know I do.

When I was in college I was overweight.  I ate horribly and didn’t exercise at all.  I drank too much beer and ate way too much fast food. 

One day I saw on TV an advertisement for a new device that would shave off one’s midsection to reveal underlying abs.  All I had to do was buy this product and wear this belt that shot electrical impulses into my stomach causing the muscles to tighten. 

It was the equivalent to doing a sit-up.  I bought the belt and started right away.  But what I realized was that this wasn’t any sort of replacement to eating right and working out. 

I thought I could keep going with horrible habits and make up for the discomfort around the consequences.  Foolishly I only addressed the symptoms of the problem not what I was doing to create the problem. 

There isn’t an easy answer to this conundrum.  We all have areas where we only care about the discomfort around a problem so we don’t dive in to fix the underlying systems and habits around the problem. 

But if we can start to change this approach, we can start to slowly improve our life.  We can start to improve in areas instead of just complaining about the consequences of our poor decisions and behaviors. 

So start to look deeper when a problem surfaces.  Is this just a reflection of some deeper issue?  Is there something causing this problem?  Am I creating an environment where this problem can surface and thrive?   Answering these questions will clue us in to ways to attack the problem at the system level instead of the surface level.