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Our Systems Are Not Confined

Improving Systems and Habits

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.  

Our Systems Are Not Confined

Scott Miker

This week marks Daylight Savings Time.  While it may be designed to conserve sunshine and help us through the day my body’s initial response to it always seems negative.  It isn’t just that I feel tired when I wake up.  It seems to impact many areas of my life and usually takes me a week or so to get back on track.

Jon Acuff talks about the way in which systems in our lives bleed over to other areas in his book Quitter.  He says “We like to pretend sometimes that we are made up of a system of buckets.  We like to think we can live ‘Whatever Happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ moments in one area of our lives without affecting the other areas.  It’s just not true.  If you’re ailing in one portion of your life, it tends to infect the other portions.  If there’s poison in a glass of water, no one says, ‘Be careful, the middle of that water is poisoned’.”

The reverse of this is also true.  If you start to have success in one area it starts to impact other areas as well.  I talked about this in my book, You Can’t Surf from the Shore.  I talked about a time when I was trying to become a better singer.  I was taking vocal lessons at the time and I realized that several other goals were connected to this goal.  I was trying to quit smoking which would impact my ability to sing properly and I was trying to lose weight, which would help me be less self-conscious about inflating and deflating my diaphragm and stomach muscles to properly sing.

I noticed that these would align and start improving all at the same time.  I would start to have wins in one area that would contribute to wins in another area.  But I also learned that setbacks in one area can infect other areas.  At its worst it would become a sort-of downward spiral where I wasn’t gaining traction and started to struggle.  

The key is to understand that systems are much larger than we can describe and impact our lives in a much more broad sense than we may realize.  But we can’t get overwhelmed and try to firmly understand the system’s implications.  We have to focus on the small steps that we can take and make sure we are making progress towards our goal.

As long as we are making progress, we will be able to avoid many of the setbacks that can spill over into other aspects of our lives.  It takes time to learn this and put it to practice.  And even with our best efforts there will still be times where you have to take a step back and start rebuilding, as I am finding with this week’s time change!