Fix the broken windows in your life

During the late 80s and early 90s, there was an alarming increase in New York City's crime rate. The head of police and mayor at that time were able to make dramatic improvements using new policing policies based on the "broken window" theory:

"Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.

A successful strategy for preventing vandalism is to address the problems when they are small. Repair the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week, and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage"

It strikes me that the broken window theory can apply to our personal selves as well. The broken windows in some parts of our lives, like not keeping our home tidy, dressing shoddily, not following through on our commitments, not being organized with our time, messy inbox etc., may individually seem minor. But they have the powerful effect of setting our personal standard of what's acceptable. Our actions, habits and willpower derive from our personal standards. So the sloppiness overflows to other aspects of our lives that may be more significant, like our relationships, health or career growth, or balloon into unmanageable problems. These broken windows also signal our standards to others around you and may determine the level of trust, relationship and opportunities that we'll have.

Even if we intentionally choose to excel in only a few areas of our lives, we should try not to be sloppy in any other areas.

* There are many valid criticisms about the broken window theory and the extreme police policies that derived from it. But in my opinion, they don't take away from this message.