Imagine someone invents a new, highly improved mousetrap and approaches several mousetrap companies with his invention. Companies love the product, but there are some problems. To produce this new model, a company would have to undergo an overhaul of its tools, production processes, marketing campaigns, and more.
But current mousetraps work just fine, and there’s no crisis of having to catch more mice, so as innovating as the new trap is, it doesn’t satisfy any unfulfilled need.
That doesn’t just apply to business and the economy. In their personal lives, many people prefer not to have to climb any hills if everything’s good and they’re comfortable in their current situation.
The problem is, for many people, things aren’t as good as they seem. It’s not always easy, but recognizing that is often the push people need to improve their lives through innovation. A person first has to identify what needs to change before changing it. Having spent most of my career working with patients and families who struggle with addiction, I’ve witnessed and understand how difficult such a realization can be.
People rarely have enough data to know something needs to change. Or rather, we rarely access that data until life circumstances force us to.
When Your Situation Could Use a Boost
In addiction treatment, it’s a common belief that addiction is hard to see, but it really isn’t. It’s just hard to see it in oneself. The person struggling with addiction may see no reason to change until others stop paying for that person’s decisions. Then, the patient is suddenly faced with the consequences of their actions, and they realize it’s time to make a change.
Not every need for personal innovation stems from something as drastic as addiction. But regardless of the reason, the steps to making effective life changes are typically similar, including:
1. Recognize that something needs improving. The first step for anyone who wants to make an effective change in his or her life is to get data. In addiction recovery, the 12 steps of recovery revolve around making a personal inventory to assess life situations. In mindfulness communities, it’s done by watching the reactions of the mind. In CrossFit, it’s done by keeping track of your reps and times. Regardless of the method, obtaining data is key.
It’s true that getting enough data to make a change can take time, and you might not think you can afford the time, given your busy life. The truth, though, is that we can’t afford not to know what’s going on in our lives. Otherwise, our lives would just get busier and our tasks more time-consuming, and we’d receive less for our investment.
2. Resolve to innovate because you want to. Using the data you’ve gathered, you should be able to see what changes need to be made. And if something can be made better, that means there are consequences to not making it better. If it’s a sunny day, enjoy it, but let yourself prepare for the hurricane that’s only three days away, too.
Will innovation make you happier and healthier? Personal innovation requires a certain amount of behavioral change, which is one of the biggest challenges in self-improvement (as well as healthcare, addiction treatment, and other life improvement programs). But health and happiness are more powerful motivators for change than fear and despair; make the decision to innovate because you want to, not just because you’re scared not to.
3. Use data to track your changes, too. You need to keep using data to track your improvement and maintain your focus. Outside of any program or supportive community, you can keep a journal to mark the changes that are too small to keep track of mentally. If you want to be more productive, write down how much time you’ve spent not working each day, and focus on closing that gap. If you want to eat healthier, make note of everything you consume throughout the day, and use the data to craft a healthier eating plan.
When helping people improve their lives, I often think of the man who fell off the Empire State Building. As he passed the 50th floor, he thought, “Well, so far, so good.” But, like in his situation, sometimes you have to ask yourself, “Are things really going that well, or is the floor rushing up to meet me soon?”
As humans, we’re inherent innovators, and there’s no problem we can’t make better if we recognize the need for change and the catalysts for innovation.