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The root of impulsive action

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.  

The root of impulsive action

Scott Miker

When we set out to improve some aspect of our life, we usually start with something that makes us unhappy. Something provides an element of pain or discomfort.

It could be that we haven’t made the right decisions in the past and we are paying the price today. It could be that we were wrong in certain assumptions about the level of success or happiness we would attain in life.

Whatever it is, the start of most improvement for people is discontentment. We aren’t content and happy. There is some element in our life that makes us less happy, so we strike out to correct for this feeling.

Because we are unhappy and uncomfortable, we want to get rid of the pain immediately. We don’t want to wait another second to feel “relief”.

So we resort to impulsive decisions. It could positive decisions just as much as negative. We could feel discontent with our health and impulsively drive to the closest gym and sign up. We could also decide to grab a drink and numb that feeling while we get back to feeling good from the alcohol.

This is why so many people struggle with the improvement process. Markers know this fact so they market their product as the easy, simple, way to get results immediately. They know that our attention span is short when it comes to areas we aren’t happy with.

And we buy in. We use confirmation bias to believe that the answer can be immediate. But the problem is that those immediate relief options, are almost always symptom fixes. They don’t actually fix the underlying problems they only take away the discomfort that manifests from those problems.

Then, we start to feel better for a short while. The symptoms decrease and we assume we are improving. But we are actually just adding a delay to the process.

In time, those symptom fixes start to lose their luster. They don’t work as well as they used to. We need more to get the same benefits. They cause side effects.

Signing up for a gym membership might help you feel better for a moment, but when you notice that you still don’t go to the gym to exercise the consequences of inactivity emerges again.

But there is a better way. We can flip the whole structure on its head and look at improvement differently. Instead of something that merely arises when we have pain or discomfort we can constantly look to make improvements in our life.

We can start to find general contentment and then ask what else we can do to improve and create a better future version of us.

We can remain happy while still addressing areas of need. We can push away from the quick fix and gravitate to the difficult task of changing our thoughts and actions consistently over time.

This is the purpose of the systems and habits approach to improvement. We don’t want to live life unhappy and miserable, but we also don’t want to let problems sit and fester, gaining strength over time. So we need to learn to tackle those before they become problems.

We need to evaluate our life and design the life we desire, starting with our own thoughts and actions. This will allow us to remain in a content state while still pushing forward. We start to love the process more than the outcome. We start to enjoy the journey more than the destination. This allows us to avoid searching for the next way to avoid the journey and instead start confidently in the direction that we need to head in order to build the life we want.