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Working to change your habits takes time

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.  

Working to change your habits takes time

Scott Miker

Whenever we want to change a habit in our life, we have to be patient and realize it takes time. It will take longer than we realize early on because if the habit is a positive one, it is likely going to be harder to get it to stick.

This is because the nature of habits. Habits tend to form when we have behaviors that get reinforced. If we decide to do something that provides instant, positive feedback, then we will be more likely to do it again. If it provides instant, negative feedback, then we will be less likely to do it again.

Since the goal is to keep doing it over and over, the initial start of the habit is crucial. If we want a positive habit that provides less pleasure initially but more happiness and success in the future, it won’t be reinforced the same as something that provides instant gratification.

Therefore we have to find ways to keep going. It will take longer to stick, so we have to find ways to do it over and over and over.

A way to do this is to start with incredibly small steps. If we want to exercise every day, we don’t start by setting a goal to go to the gym for 4 hours a day.

We set a goal to go to the gym for 2 minutes a day. Then after the 2 minutes, we can stay or leave but the next day the goal goes back to only 2 minutes.

What this does is it makes it much easier to keep going. The more we do it the more likely it will stick. Since most people quit because it becomes too difficult to keep going with the long workouts, we shift the focus to just make sure we keep going.

This helps to make it stickier. The stickier it is, the more likely it will start to become ingrained in our routine. This technique is called setting the minimum.

The other area where patience is required is when you run into obstacles. It may be an injury that prevents you from exercising, or it could be a financial loss that comes when you are trying to better manage your personal budget. It could be that in your quest to move up in your company, you get assigned a failing project. It might be as simple as losing motivation due to additional stress in your life.

Whatever causes the hiccup; realize that it, again, is about time. We have to make it through the temporary setback. So if you suddenly have to reduce what you are doing so you keep going, then do it. The benefit is that the habit will likely keep going and won’t be in jeopardy of ending.

If we are using the systems and habits approach to improvement, we have to realize the value of time. If we do, then we can align everything to help us keep going above everything else. We can slow down, reduce the effort it takes to do the activity, or find other ways to make it easier to just keep going.

We all have times when things go well and everything seems easy but we also all have times when things are difficult and it seems impossible to make it through the current challenge. Don’t let those ebbs and flows of life dictate your habits and your journey to a better you. Instead adjust what you are doing so you can keep making progress and moving towards your goals and dreams.