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Learn to find ways to keep going other than passion and motivation

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.  

Learn to find ways to keep going other than passion and motivation

Scott Miker

Most people think that their passion is what is really important in life. They feel that following their passion they should be guaranteed success.

But this isn’t true. We aren’t entitled to success just because we are passionate. We assume this passion leads to constant motivation to keep moving forward to reach our goals.

Part of the reason is that motivation is fickle. It shows up when it wants to and abandons you when you probably need it most.

If you are passionate about getting back into shape and feel motivation as you set a goal to lose 50 lbs., you probably assume that motivation is going to show up when it is time to exercise.

So you set your alarm for 6 am and commit to a new you. The alarm goes off but the last thing you want to do is get up. You know you can hit snooze and sleep a little longer and still make it to the gym.

But then after hitting snooze a few times, you realize that you aren’t going to have enough time. But you are completely unmotivated.

What happened?

The motivation that you felt when you set the goal disappeared when you need it most. It didn’t help you achieve anything other than setting a goal that you ultimately failed at.

There is actually a much better way to reach a goal than going through this painful process. But we have to realize that motivation is one driver of our behavior. The fickleness of motivation means that we can’t count on it. If it shows up and gives us a boost, great, but that isn’t the only way we succeed.

The power of systems and habits in your life cannot be understated. When you set up systematic ways to go through life you start to move automatically through your routines.

Your behaviors start to form habits and you soon do things without fighting with yourself. And you no longer look to motivation for anything other than a temporary spark of energy.

So we change our morning routines. We set the alarm and start out incredibly small. We don’t set the alarm for 6 am and then hope to get a full workout in. We set the alarm for 6:40 am and only do 5 minutes of exercise every day.

We don’t overdo it, we keep to the 5 minutes. We do this for a few months and suddenly it becomes easier and easier as it transitions to the automated action of habit.

Because we only do 5 minutes and only set the alarm a little earlier, it is much easier to fight the tiredness and lack of motivation on a daily basis.

The key is to win that battle every day. What doesn’t matter is the intensity of the battle. In fact, we should stack the odds in our favor. How can we make it as easy as possible to keep going? Start incredibly small.

This helps us develop a new driver to our behavior – habit. Instead of trying to motivate and will ourselves to do something hard, we just keep doing something easy over and over until it gets ingrained in our routine and feels automatic.

Then we can slowly increase the intensity. We can do 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then add some strength exercises or some stretches.

With each step we can start by saying, “after the first 5 minutes we can choose to keep going or to quit.”

We let ourselves make that decision AFTER the 5 minutes but not before. If we do it before we will trick ourselves into trying to commit to more before we even start, creating a blocker in our ability to keep going.

But if we make the decision after the 5 minutes, then we can keep going and going. We can start to get a full workout in without changing the initial battle to get up and get moving.

We don’t change the 5 minutes minimum for a while. Once we see that we consistently do 10-15 minutes a day and hardly ever settle for the minimum it is time to increase it. But we don’t increase it to 20 minutes; we increase it to 7 minutes or 10 minutes.

We do this over and over again and over time we start to see great improvement. This is far from the instant success model most people crave. Instead this is all about leveraging our short-term goals to build a brighter future for ourselves where we do incredible things without much motivation. We shift the main driver of our behavior from passion or motivation to habit.