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Our brains are designed to use habit

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.  

Our brains are designed to use habit

Scott Miker

As humans, we inherently use habit and routine to get through our days. I’ve heard psychologists state that 95% of the thoughts and behaviors in our typical day are habit. With this being so high, it is no wonder why change can be so difficult.

Because habit is so engrained, it is difficult to change. We can’t just wake up one day and suddenly change something that we have done the same way for the last 40 years.

To me, this is the major flaw of the self-improvement industry. We read a motivating book or watch an inspiring speech and we are filled with enthusiasm to reach a new goal.

We set the specifics around the goal and then we go to work. But it seems that as soon as we go to work on our goal, we start to lose that momentum. Suddenly it seems like the world is against our new ambition.

But it isn’t the external world that pushes the hardest, it is our internal wiring. It is the programming of our brain that has occurred without much direction from our conscious thought. It simply follows the decisions we make and then tries to continue making similar decisions automatically.

The programming sees a change and suddenly kicks into overdrive to keep its current processes going. In our mind change should be easy because we are motivated but in the real world our motivation is too fleeting and small to combat those programed actions and thoughts.

This makes most people keep going through life without an ability to change much. They want to change things but every time they try they hit a roadblock. That roadblock is our current habits and routines.

Think about the last time you set a New Years Resolution. You probably thought of some aspect that you want to change for some future, positive result. But when you try to do what you have to do to achieve that goal, it seems much harder than you probably realized. You aren’t unique, we all experience this.

The good news is that this also keeps us balanced. If we can direct these habits to move us in the direction we choose, then reaching goals becomes much easier. And, once you reach those goals, you continue with the positive thoughts and behaviors so that the results stick.

If we can engrain the habit of exercising at a certain time every day, or eating vegetables, or keeping calm in stressful situations, or working harder when things start to get difficult, then we can start to drastically improve our lives.

We can start to dictate these habits and routines so that the automated behavior is the one that will take us towards success and happiness in the future.

The systems and habits approach to improvement relies on this concept of reprogramming our brain so that we can have very positive habits in our life that push us towards the life we desire. We don’t require daily motivation injections or superhuman ability to reach our goals; we simply rewire our brain so that we do the things necessary in order to succeed.

The systems and habits approach to improvement uses certain principles to help change these habits easily. We start small, focus more on consistent behavior then on extreme behavior, remain flexible instead of rigid, focus on progress over being perfect, and utilize constant adjustments with feedback in order to redesign our life.

The world can change and you can create a situation where you are much more successful and happy but you have to find a way to improve those engrained aspects of your life – the habits and routines. But doing this unlocks a new path forward that will then be just as stable and hard to change as your current bad habits are now.

Famous poker champion, Annie Duke, says it best in her book, Thinking in Bets. She says about our brains, “We can’t install new hardware. Working with the way our brains are built in reshaping habit has a higher chance of success than working against it.”