My System Won’t Work For You

Why the changes we try to make usually don’t stick, and what we need to do to see sustained progress

Mike Sturm
6 min readJan 27, 2022


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

There’s this monologue I love from the show Breaking Bad. It’s about half-measures. You can read the whole thing here (warning: it’s a bit profane and grizzly).

The gist of the speech is that the speaker, Mike, used to a cop. He and his partner would regularly be called to the same couple’s house for domestic disturbances. The really large, abusive husband would regularly knock around the thin, fragile, scared wife. But each time Mike and his partner arrived, she would refuse to press charges against her husband.

One day, Mike got the call without his partner. He showed up alone. He’d had enough. He threw the husband in the back of a squad car, drove off to some isolated place, and threatened him. If he ever laid a hand on his wife again, Mike would kill him.

Two weeks later, Mike and his partner were called to the same house. But this time, it was for a homicide. The husband killed his wife. Mike laments as he delivers the story’s lesson:

“The moral of the story is: I chose a half measure, when I should have gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again.”

Boy is that ever true when it comes to personal development. No half measures.

Of course, it’s not a life and death matter, like Mike’s story.
Or is it?

When we take on new systems or tools to help us make positive changes in our lives, we’re looking for help — but we know we have to put in effort. The problem is that we usually end up taking half-measures. There are two halves of the equation to making systematic changes in your life. Without both of them, you end up with abandoned aspirations.

Let’s look at how we often only take half-measures, and what we need to do in order to make personal growth stick.

The Two Halves

It’s easy to get swept up in excitement about the newest self-improvement craze, newest fitness regime, or personal productivity trick. We read the books, print out the worksheets, buy an app, and attempt to implement the plan — step by step.



Mike Sturm

Creator: — A simpler personal productivity system. Writing about productivity, self-improvement, business, and life.