When I was younger I formed a bunch of bad habits. I smoked. I drank a lot. I ate extremely unhealthy food on a regular basis. I never exercised.
I remember during those days being frustrated that I couldn’t seem to change. When I decided I wanted to quit smoking people would give me all sorts of advice.
They would say, “if you don’t want to do it, just stop.” They would say, “it is easy, just don’t buy another pack.” Or they would say something along the lines of, “just think about what you’re doing to your lungs every time you smoke.”
But none of that mattered. None of that attacked the habit in any real way. Those were brush-off attempts to minimize the journey to quit smoking.
I hear the same thing about people who are trying to lose weight. Someone would say, “They just need to stop eating cheeseburgers all the time.” Or “they are just lazy, get up and move and they will lose the weight.”
From the outside it is always easy. It is easy to judge someone else’s struggles and come to an instant, easy solution for them.
I see the same thing at work. I oversee the operations of a business. Whenever someone starts making numerous mistakes people say, “oh come on they just need to focus better.” Or they say, “If they cared they wouldn’t make these mistakes.”
But just like everything in life, it is usually more complicated than this.
So if you find yourself in a situation where you really want to change but can’t seem to do anything different, then try a different approach.
The systems and habits approach to improvement is great for this. Basically what you do is you start incredibly small. You do something very small that will slightly move you towards your goal.
Because it is so small, it IS easy. You aren’t trying to complete the journey, just take the first step.
But the key is after you take this small, easy step, not the step itself. Instead of doing it and then stopping, you continue to take that small step over and over.
Consistency becomes your best friend. If you can consistently take that small behavior and do it over and over again it will become easier and easier to do. Over time it starts to shift.
Instead of using effort and willpower to take that step each day, you start to do it automatically. You barely think about it because it starts to form a habit.
As it forms into a habit you start to realize that you can now use your effort and willpower to take another small step.
If you keep doing this over and over again you start to build on each small step. As you do you start to gain more and more value from what you are doing and you apply less and less effort and willpower to do so.
It isn’t going to be completely quick and easy. It isn’t something that someone else can just tell you to change and you instantly become someone different. But if you follow the systems and habits approach you will slowly start to shift. You will gradually improve and soon enough find yourself improved.