We all know the feeling. We feel frustrated and trapped and seem unable to break through. We don’t understand what is holding us back but we certainly feel it.
But while most of us intuitively know this feeling, we don’t explore it with enough depth and insight to actually make a change. Instead we usually power through until it eases up or we change direction.
Renowned systems thinking author, Peter Senge, talks about this as being a citizen within a system. It is a very interesting way to view our role in the various systems around us, whether political systems, environmental systems, relational systems etc.
He says, in his book The Fifth Discipline, “Systems citizenship starts with seeing the systems that we have shaped and which in turn shape us.”
In other words we have to start seeing how we add to the very systems that have such a strong impact on us.
He goes on to say, “being stuck in a system that is not working invariably leads to feeling frustrated and trapped – until we see the larger patterns and our own part in creating these patterns. Once we do, new alternatives become evident.”
With all the media attention around citizens of the United States who are unhappy about the current president, I can’t help but see the patterns at play. The pattern that is most interesting to me is voter turnout. I have seen statistics on voter turnout that seem to show that the candidate who wins is ultimately the one that gets enough people off their couch to go and vote.
So when CNN shows mobs of people protesting, I can’t help but think that there are probably a significant number of those protesting who didn’t vote. Occasionally during interviews with the media these protesters admit they didn’t vote because they didn’t think it made a difference.
This is a perfect example of being such a part of a system that you have an impact on the system, yet you come away feeling as though the system is unfair and there isn’t anything you can do about it.
I’m not at all suggesting that any candidate or party is better or showing any support for either side of the argument. I’m simply showing a pattern that is caused by the very people who feel abused by the system. In fact, this exact message could probably be written about any presidential race in the last 20 years.
But it can be very difficult to see the interconnectedness and the patterns when we are emotionally tied to something. We let our emotions shut down our objective thinking.
This builds the frustration and trapped feeling. Then we set out to make a “change” but we don’t really understand how to change the system so we rely on ineffective tactics that grow our frustration. Instead of seeing the leverage points in the system where we can make the most change, we stay focused on areas of the system that are unlikely to have an impact.
So if you feel frustrated and trapped in any area of your life, start to look at the systems to find areas where you are creating and growing the actual systems that are holding you back. Attack those and learn how to use the systems and habits approach to improvement in order to finally break free from frustration and being trapped.