How to achieve goals and achieve results without violence against yourself

Enter system changes

Even if we make it as easy as possible to establish a habit, it will still take time, and we will always have more important things to do. So the question boils down to this: is it possible to get the desired result without time and energy costs? Fortunately, in some situations the answer is yes.

To do this, you can use a technique that I call a system change. First, I will introduce you to a formal description of this tool, and then I will explain the essence with simpler real-life examples.

So, a systemic change is a one-time impact on the situation, as a result of which undesirable actions become physically impossible, and the desired result turns out by itself.

I know it sounds complicated, so let’s jump right into the examples. Imagine that your back hurts from sitting at work. You’ve made up your mind to pay attention to your posture before it’s too late. How might the development of events look like?

Option number 1. At first, you control the posture and straighten your back every time you notice that you are slouching. Gradually, you will remember this less and less, and then you will completely forget, getting used to the pain.

Option number 2. You decide to trust modern technology and buy a gadget that monitors your posture and gives a signal if you start to stoop. This is a step forward compared to the first option: now it is impossible to forget about your back. You can rely on the memory of your device.

But you still need to consciously make an effort to straighten your back after each signal. As in the first case, after some time you will get used to the signal and stop paying attention to it. In addition, you will have to attach the device to clothing every time before starting work. In a word, full automation is still far away.

Option number 3. A new item appears in your wardrobe – a corset that corrects posture. Unlike the first two options, now all that is required of you is to put on a corset over a T-shirt in the morning. Then he will do all the work himself, without your participation. The option is good, but still a little short of the reference. Firstly, every morning you have to remember about the corset. And secondly, wearing it all day is not recommended, because the muscles need to get a rest from the tightening straps.

Option number 4. You give your fancy office chair to a colleague, and in return you buy an orthopedic knee chair. On such a chair, even if you really want to, you will not be able to sit stooped – it will be uncomfortable. This option is an excellent example of systemic change. It is enough to take care of buying a chair once, so that later you will forever forget about all the issues related to posture.

From now on, the process will be automatic. You are calmly doing work, and the chair ensures the correct position of the body. No need to put on anything, correct, adjust, remember something. And even more so, you don’t have to introduce a habit . Issue resolved.

Apply them in all areas

One of the participants in my training course applied the idea of systemic change to the prevention of flat feet in a child. At the initial stage, you can cope with the deformation of the foot with the help of a special massage mat. If you put it in the children’s room, the child will walk on it barefoot throughout the day. Not on purpose, but simply because the rug lies where the baby is used to playing.

The only catch with system changes: they can not be invented for all situations.

If, despite your best efforts, you cannot determine such a change for a particular task, at least try to find some semi-automatic solution. For example, similar to option number 3 in the posture example discussed above. If this does not pass, you can, with a clear conscience, begin full-fledged work on the habit in accordance with all the rules.

To make it clear to you in which direction to move, let’s remember our heroes from the first chapters of the book: a girl on a diet and a manager who is learning English . Each of them can come up with a system change for their situation and thereby facilitate movement towards the goal.

Learning English

For a manager, the task statement will look something like this: “Learning English happens by itself, without purposeful efforts.” Yes, this is the dream of every schoolchild and student!

What can we do to make this dream a reality? For example, change the interface language on all devices that we deal with during the day: computer, laptop, smartphone and tablet. It is worth doing the same with programs and services, from social networks to email clients.

Thus, most of the day we will be immersed in the English context. An Oxford accent is unlikely to come from this, but some previously unfamiliar words, phrases and language constructs will become familiar over time. A semi-automatic solution in this situation would be to replace Russian-language films and TV shows with English ones. Or at least download English subtitles.

weight loss

Now let’s move on to a girl who wants to get rid of extra pounds . Here, the task statement will sound simply fabulous: “How to do nothing and at the same time lose weight.” As a systemic change, the popular advice of nutritionists is suitable: remove all large, deep and roomy dishes from the house, and use small plates instead.

This will most likely lead to the fact that our heroine will eat a little less … or walk a little more. It’s just that now, in order to get a portion of the usual size, you need to take a few walks to the kitchen for more.

If we develop this idea, we can replace forks and spoons with Chinese chopsticks. Then the girl willy-nilly will start to eat slowly, calmly and consciously, and this will definitely benefit her digestion.


Have you heard the story of the American Eric O’Grey? The systemic change turned his life upside down and inspired thousands of people. Eric suffered from severe diabetes and weighed 154 kilograms. The doctors said: if no action is taken, the man will last no more than five years, and as a result, the disease will finish him off. Then Eric went to a shelter for homeless animals and adopted a pet, whom he named Petey. The dog spent many years in a cage, due to lack of activity, he also developed health problems.

The two began to help each other. Every day they walked for a long time, and as a result, both got rid of excess weight. During the first year, Eric lost 54 kilograms, and his four-legged friend lost 11. Eric even managed to run a marathon, which he had not even dared to think about before.

“Now I have everything in my life that you can only dream of, and I owe it all to Petey. It wasn’t me who took care of him, but he took care of me … ”Eric admits. The man told his story in the book Walking with Petey: The Dog Who Saved My Life.

Yes, yes, in this case, the four-legged friend has become a system change! Eric made one single act – he took a dog from a shelter – and he could no longer behave the way he used to:sit at home without getting out and complain about a difficult fate.


In conclusion, I want to share ideas for system changes that can be useful to everyone without exception.

  1. Do you want to learn touch typing but don’t have time to study? Simply remove any letter stickers from your keyboard and the learning process will start by itself.
  2. Want to relax your body more often and get rid of muscle blocks, but don’t have time for a massage? Replace the standard watering can in the bathroom with Alekseev’s shower, and each water treatment will turn into a hydromassage.
  3. Do you want to wake up earlier and do exercises, but in the morning you can’t open your eyes? Create the most comfortable conditions for sleep: replace your regular pillow with an orthopedic one, turn on the humidifier and buy a light alarm clock. Hang blackout curtains on the windows to sleep in complete darkness. Then you will sleep much better for the same time, which means that it will become easier to get up in the morning.

For more ideas and tips on energy management, goal setting and self-efficacy from Nikita Maklakhov and 100 guests of his podcast, look in the book Will Be Done!.

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