When I start to talk with someone about improvement, the biggest question that comes up in my mind is what are they doing on a regular basis? What are they doing daily that is different than most people? Are they doing the same things or vastly different things throughout their day?
This provides great insight into who they are. You can start to see from their actions what controls them and what they have control over. You can see limitations in their willpower. You can see areas of focus and what they feel is important.
In many ways this is more accurate than asking them what is important or what they want in life. This cuts out their biases and gets to the core of what they are doing.
This approach allows us to see implicit motivation instead of explicit goals. Explicit goals are the stated, known goals that we set. The answers they would give us to questions about what they feel is important are explicit, stated goals.
But underneath the goals we are aware of are underlying systems and habits that actually control things. We might say that spending time with family is most important. But if we spend every minute either working or out with friends or colleagues then we see family is not as important. Maybe they feel sacrificing for their family is important but more likely they have internal drivers away from the importance of family.
These actions clue us in to their implicit motivation. This is not the known, stated goal but rather the push towards what we actually do.
The implicit motivation is much more important when it comes to improvement than the explicit goals. We can come up with goals all day long but the underlying systems and structures are going to keep running the show.
Therefore if we want to use the systems and habits approach to improvement we have to ask ourselves the question – What do you do every day?
This will tell us more about the systems in our lives than trying to ask what is important. The reason is simple. This illuminates the unaware drivers in life. These elements are usually controlling us and directing our life.
If the implicit motivation is wildly different from the explicit goals there is a problem. Most likely the implicit motivation will win out every time.
If we really want to change those daily actions to improve our lives, then we have to think differently about the steps we take. We don’t simply set more goals. We don’t come up with logic and reasoning because the implicit motivation is driven more by feeling and emotion than by logic or reason.
The systems and habits approach to improvement is a technique that allows us to slowly integrate our explicit goals into our daily actions. We slowly start to align our explicit goals with our implicit motivation.
We create the underlying structures. These no longer develop subconsciously from emotion and feeling. Suddenly we have a way to incorporate more logic and reason to what we do every day.
So if you are working to improve and are finding it difficult, take time to explore what you do every day, not just what you want to achieve.