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Changing thought patterns is difficult

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.  

Changing thought patterns is difficult

Scott Miker

When we start studying systems thinking we likely get to a point where we assume the easy answer to changing anything is to simply think differently. 

We see the flaws in our thinking.  We see when we make shortsighted decisions that hurt us in the long term.  The mental models emerge to give us insight into how we think about the world.

Through this, we will start to see ways that we habitually think that actually hurt us in some way.  It could be that it sets us up for failure.  It could be that we give in to instant gratification too often.  It could be that give up as the first sign of challenge.  It could be that we mentally beat ourselves up at each perceived failure. 

We see that our mental models are creating the thoughts that cause us to miss our goals.  The logical next step is to change our thinking. 

But that is where most people get lost.  Changing our thinking seems easy.  But changing habits is difficult and the habits around thinking are no different.   

We know we have leverage if we can change the mental models.  Those ultimately create the structures and behavior patterns in our lives. 

So we start there. 

I’ve learned that this is a mistake.  Starting with our habitual thoughts sounds like the best place to start to get the most bang for our buck.   

But this is also the hardest area to change.  Imagine seeing that your favorite food is unhealthy and then setting out to never desire it again.  That isn’t a great strategy and won’t work.  

But what can work is to slowly change the events based on that information.  We can slowly change the behaviors that drive us to that delicious food. 

Over time, we can start to slowly change how we act towards that food.  That will slowly form patterns, which turn into habits.  Those habits, when combined with similar habits start to form structures.  Those habits and structures create the way in which we think and behave and ultimately contribute to the mental models we hold.

So if we want to change, it may sound like an easy shortcut to change our thoughts.  But that is also battling all of that habit and structure that has been built over the years from the old mental models. 

Therefore, we start small.  We start to change the specific moments and then work to do that consistently.  This forms new habits, which then help modify mental models. 

It is possible to change our recurring thoughts and how we respond mentally to various scenarios.  But it isn’t as quick and easy as we might think.  Instead we have to slowly and consistently find ways to go in the direction we desire.  This will slowly recalibrate our thoughts and can help us lead a more happy and successful life.