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Systems thinking helps improvement by showing us a bigger picture

Blog

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.  

Systems thinking helps improvement by showing us a bigger picture

Scott Miker

The danger of too much linear thinking and not enough systems thinking is that you miss seeing interconnectedness that may be very important.  Everything around us is made up of systems and without a clear understanding of the system you may be doing more harm than good.

I heard that doctors have a saying, “first, do no harm.”  They use it to establish a common ethos that leaves the patient the same or better than they would be without the professional medical help.

But without systems thinking, this is really just a catchy saying.  Without understanding the complexity of what we are doing, we are left assuming too many aspects. 

But we all do this.  We try to lose weight so we deprave ourselves of vital nutrients in an attempt to quickly shed pounds.  Or we stop visiting the grocery store as frequently to try and save money but then find visits to fast food restaurants occurring more frequently. 

The reason is that these are complex systems.  Our quick need for satisfaction and justification for what we are doing sabotages the new systems we are creating and forces on us a feeling as though we have to go to extremes and do it right away. 

Systems thinking provides a much clearer picture of the full system of impacted parts.  It focuses on leverage points within the system.  Many times this means avoiding the extremes and the urgency that we feel in order to adopt a mindset of slow and steady. 

This is why focusing the small habits around our goals can be so effective.  It takes a small part of the system and focuses on improving that small part.  But that small part then becomes automatic as it turns to habit.  This allows us to add more and more and more, leveraging that small change for maximum effectiveness. 

While systems thinking isn’t crucial in order to improve, it does provide a solid foundation on which to start improving.  It makes difficult changes possible and makes it so that we can all start where we are currently and improve from there. 

Next time you want to improve in an area of your life, make sure you understand the various systems elements in order to avoid some common linear thinking mistakes.  It will provide you a bigger picture of the goal and the interconnectedness of the parts of the system you are manipulating. 

They key is that systems thinking provides insight into how to improve.  This is incredibly important because improvement is the key to overcoming the nagging feeling and thoughts that many of us feel throughout out lives.

The reason improvement overcomes this feeling is because it shifts the way we think and process information.  Instead of some type of negative feedback bruising our ego and causing us distress, we quickly learn to switch our train of thought.

We, instead, ask, “what can I do to improve in this area?”  We don’t focus on how bad we are for being a certain way or blame others and say it isn’t our fault.  We simply focus on how we can improve. 

Then the barometer to tell us where we are in life is less emotional.  We don’t feel fantastic one minute and horrible the next.  It evens out and becomes more about looking at our life and seeing if we are making progress. 

We can then shift from trying to have everything be perfect, to making strides in the right direction.  If we make progress we can calm our nagging mind because we know we are moving in the right direction.

Systems thinking is the key to improvement.  Being able to improve throughout life has incredible benefits.  It helps us get past much of the negativity in life and shift our focus to doing the things we need to do in order to get better and realize our potential.