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Being forced off-track

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.  

Being forced off-track

Scott Miker

The past couple of months have been really interesting for me. I have spent years building solid systems and habits in key areas that I was forced to change.

The biggest change was that I had to ease up on exercising. I discovered I had a hernia and was told not to lift anything over 15 lbs and to take it easy until I had the surgery.

The instructions after surgery were to avoid lifting anything over 10 lbs and not exercise for a few weeks.

In addition to all of this, the weeks before my surgery I had a case of the flu. This caused me to take a break from exercise. Overall I had about 2 months of time away from my normal routines.

I’ve learned a couple key things about systems and habits during this time despite the frustration with having to pause my exercise goals and the progress I was making.

The first thing that I learned is that many of our improvement efforts connect. I noticed that as soon as I stopped exercising, many other systems and habits stalled as well. Sometimes they were related and I could easily see why they were impacted (like eating different foods when I stopped working out) but others were not related much at all.

It seemed like this adjustment caused more disruption than it needed to and certainly more than I expected.

Suddenly I found myself struggling with areas that I haven’t struggled with in years. I couldn’t keep up with my normal routines. I found my attitude and disposition slipping to negative emotions quicker than normal.

I have noticed this in the past. It seems like when we are building habits the positive energy that this creates pushes up to improve other areas of our life. As we do that we start to feed off of that improvement and it grows exponentially instead of linearly.

When we start going in the wrong direction, I always think of the downward spiral. We have something bad happen and react poorly creating more bad situations. Those then reinforce the bad attitude and create more bad situations.

The other thing that I noticed is that stopping ingrained habit is difficult. This isn’t just for bad habits that we want to change. It is also for good habits that we have developed and reinforced.

When I stopped exercising, I noticed that I seemed to crave it. I thought sleeping in instead of getting up to exercise would cause me to have a difficult time getting back to my routines once I got the ok. Instead, the time I couldn’t exercise, I constantly felt antsy and out-of-place. I continued to wake up early and wanted to exercise. I had to consciously stop myself each day from doing anything beyond walking or some stretches.

If we take the time to build the right systems and habits in our life and then work to reinforce the positive behaviors, they become ingrained. They become part of our normal routine. We start to do them automatically and have to exert less energy to keep doing them.

Being forced off-track has been frustrating but it also helped to teach me even more about the power of systems and habits. If we work hard to develop the right systems and habits it has a magnifying effect that helps other areas improve. It also turns into autopilot so we have to exert much less effort to keep the system going.