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Increase your chances

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.  

Increase your chances

Scott Miker

Success in life is complicated. There are many factors involved and we all define success differently.

But let’s just assume there is a common agreement on what it means to succeed. Let’s assume we all mean that we set a goal and then reach that goal.

In its simplest form then, success and failure are only relevant to the goal that we set and whether or not we reach it.

If this is true, then we can start to explore the odds of being successful at any given pursuit. We can come up with a general sense of how likely it is that we succeed.

If we want to be more successful than we are now, the way to improve is to increase the odds that you will reach your goal.

So let’s look at an example. Let’s say we want to lose weight and set a goal around weight loss.

What can we do to increase our odds of reaching our goal?

For many people trying to reach a goal, we don’t think that way. We think much more binary. We assume to reach our goal we have to do everything right. We assume we have to be perfect in our actions.

So we move to extremes right away. We try to only eat certain foods that we label as healthy and try to avoid all food that we label as unhealthy.

But what happens is that the extreme view becomes an almost impossible standard to meet. As we use motivation, effort, and willpower to try and be perfect we quickly fall below the standard. In other words our extreme view causes us to use a strategy that leads to failure, not success.

What if we changed how we approached our goal? What if we simply made it a point to constantly try to increase our odds of success? We can then find many ways to slightly increase our odds without pushing immediately to the extremes.

If we want to lose weight, we don’t stop eating all meat and only eat cauliflower. We can take our normal meals and make slight improvements. Let’s say you are planning to eat a burger with bacon and a potato for a side.

Going to extremes, you would need to replace everything – the burger, the bun, the bacon, the potato. But if we want to slightly increase our odds, what can we do?

Suddenly a ton of options appear. We can change out the bacon for tomato. We can use a whole-wheat bun. We can change the potato for a vegetable such as broccoli. Heck, we can even add broccoli to our meal to add more nutrients and fill us up.

Any of these small changes would increase your odds of success. Doing any of them, or a combination of them, makes it more likely that you will be successful.

But we all know that eating a whole-wheat bun with our burger today will probably not make much of a difference in a month when we step on the scale.

That is why we have to take these small actions and turn them into regular actions. We can start to turn them into habit and routine. We can start to build the mindset of any small step towards our goal is worthy of our efforts.

Over time we can start to make it habit to do these small changes. We can start to add more and more and more. Because there are countless options for little improvements, we won’t run out of options to choose. So we can continuously improve and get better, increasing our odds of success as we do it.

The systems and habits approach to improvement uses this shift in our attempts to be successful. Instead of making our approach binary, with perfection or failure as the only options, it gives us many small ways to increase our odds of success and then does them over and over and over.

In time we start to realize that we shouldn’t jump to extremes because that increases the odds that we quit and go back to our old habits. But subtle changes are likely to stick so we can continue to do them over and over, increasing our chances of success.

This now makes any goal, worthy of our efforts. We can start to move towards our goals slowly. We can start to change our habits and routines and the thought processes we use to be successful, all the while increasing our chances at being success.