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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.  

Monitoring systems

Scott Miker

When it comes to systematic improvement, one element that is crucial is the ability to track your progress. You have to be able to see what is happening and know for certain what direction you are heading.

Are you improving or just going through the motions but remaining stagnant? How often are you keeping up with the action steps you designed?

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Finish tasks to clear your mind

Scott Miker

I work in a very complex environment. I oversee the operations of a growing business and in doing so have to be aware of many different areas of the business.

There are technical aspects, logistical aspects, customer service aspects etc. I often go through my day with more and more tasks accumulating that need completed.

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Learn to be good at execution

Scott Miker

When you start to use the systems and habits approach to improvement what you are really doing is focusing on execution. You focus on how to improve.

While this may seem obvious, the benefits are incredible. Most people avoid execution and instead put their focus on everything but execution.

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Take control of your life

Scott Miker

I heard a quote the other day from a friend. He didn’t recall who said it but he repeated it to me while we were having a conversation about self-improvement.

He said, “No one has the power over you unless you give it them, you are in control of your life and your choices decide your own fate.”

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Follow the patterns not the words

Scott Miker

One of the things that I learned when I started using the systems and habits approach to improvement was that I couldn’t trust the words that I spoke. I couldn’t even trust my thoughts because too often they were misleading.

I told myself that I wanted be prosperous. But I wasn’t willing to work more for more money. I told myself that I wanted to be healthy but I didn’t eat healthy foods or exercise. I was constantly telling myself what I thought was true but often my actions didn’t follow along.

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You have the tools to succeed even if you ignore them

Scott Miker

We all have the tools necessary to succeed in life. I see this time and time again through a disadvantaged individual who goes on to achieve great things. They often overcome their disability and then continue to rise.

They grow and improve. They don’t complain about their lot in life. They push past their limitations. In fact, they often push further than many non-disabled.

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Feedback loops

Scott Miker

In systems thinking we often explore feedback loops. These are phenomenon where the output of a system goes back into the input of the system. These are everywhere.

It could be a system where we start to pour our glass of milk and stop at precisely the right time. Most people never think about this as a process or a system but if we do we can see the feedback loop structure present.

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Sometimes everything you have is not enough

Scott Miker

Life is unfair. It isn’t designed to have a very direct link between cause and effect. It incorporates randomness. It incorporates luck. Sometimes it seems like it all makes sense and other times it is completely baffling.

But we have to learn to see that we cannot control outside forces but we can control us. We can reach deep inside to determine what we do in the face of life’s unfairness.

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Grow your willpower

Scott Miker

Having the willpower to resist temptation is something that can help you reach your goals and become more successful and happy. Being able to put off instant gratification to gain more in the future is a tried and true strategy for improvement.

Call it self-control or self-discipline, the ability to use willpower to will you to do the right thing provides incredible rewards. Not having enough creates some of the most common struggles for people everywhere.

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The system doesn’t give a shit about the goal

Scott Miker

We all operate through numerous systems in life. These systems are mechanical, biological, technological, habitual, etc.

Most of the systematic influence in life is ignored. We ignore the patterns and instead focus our attention on outliers. We see shock and awe and then turn our thoughts to the events, ignoring the underlying structures that determine more but attract less attention.

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Some systems are easier to change than other

Scott Miker

When we start using the systems and habits approach to improvement and we start to build new structures and adjust existing structures, we will likely find that some are easier to change than others.

Not all systems elements are created equal. If we want to build a habit where we read every day that might be easy for some but hard for others. If we want to start exercising some will instantly be able to keep going with the new behaviors and others will struggle to consistently take action.

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Self-regulation is key to helping you reach a goal

Scott Miker

When you are designing systems to improve your life, you will be focusing on incorporating three aspects in each system. These are crucial for strong systems and need to be accounted for as you plan your new system.

The elements are simple, sticky and self-regulating. These three factors can be found in almost every strong system.

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Small change doesn’t feel as important as it is

Scott Miker

Small changes in life can be meaningless or they can be life changing. The variable that determines how important small changes become is in consistency.

If, one day, we make a small change in our life and then go back to our old ways that small change is probably meaningless in the grand scheme of things. If we make a small change but take that new step in our lives over and over again and slowly add more small steps, the output can be incredible.

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The reason we gravitate towards the symptom fix

Scott Miker

Whenever we feel sick, the first response of most people is to try to feel better. We reach for medicines that can relieve the horrible symptoms that we experience. We want to get rid of the headache. We want to stop the running nose. We want our stomach to feel less achy.

So we reach for the medicine cabinet to see what instant fixes are available. We take the medicine assuming this is going to help us get better.

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Slow down and take it one step at a time

Scott Miker

One of the benefits of the systems and habits approach to improvement is the fact that it allows us to break off pieces of the journey towards betterment. Instead of trying to tackle everything at once we simply tackle one step at a time.

This allows us to take on a different mindset. Instead of getting overwhelmed at all of the future challenges that will certainly come our way, we focus on the current challenge only. We work solely to tackle this problem in front of us.

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Good intentions are not enough

Scott Miker

Whenever we set out to reach a goal we have to be willing to do the difficult work required to change. We can’t simply have a positive idea of a better future and then wish and wish until we obtain it.

This means that we have to do things that we probably don’t want to do. If we keep doing what we want to do, we will keep doing the same things we are doing today. And if we keep doing what we are doing today we will keep getting the same results.

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Quick, easy and effective

Scott Miker

We all want more out of life. We want happiness and success. We want pleasure and achievement. We all want to have great health and wellness. We want wealth that grows larger over time.

While we all want those things, we all go about life differently. Some people sacrifice and work hard, trying to gain one or more on that list. Some people see the difficulty in trying to reach those goals and simply give up.

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Make doing the right thing a habit

Scott Miker

Years ago I was listening to a successful business owner talk about the culture he created at his company. He talked about how he made it a point to have employees do the right thing.

He talked about it to employees. He made sure his decisions followed the creed to do the right thing. He would do what is right when the choice presented was between the right thing that was hard and a shortcut.

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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.

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Keep making progress

Scott Miker

I’ve led a lot of projects over the years. Some of these have been large-scale corporate projects involving multiple departments and numerous people all working towards one common outcome. Some have been small operational improvements that only involve a handful of people.

A lot goes into project management. There are countless books and methodologies that can help someone learn the best practices for taking a project from idea through completion.

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