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Systems thinking helps calm our emotional response

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.  

Systems thinking helps calm our emotional response

Scott Miker

Systems thinking has great benefits for the business person or the individual trying to improve something about themselves.  But the benefits of systems thinking provide even greater benefit that doesn’t often get talked about.

The truth is that being able to better understand the world around us can help us avoid overreacting to something.  In linear thinking when something happens, we quickly search for what led to it and what will be the consequences, often causing us to overreact.  In systems thinking, we can see the full system, and can understand the true scope of this particular situation better, allowing us to remain calm as we determine what to do next. 

Many times we react emotionally when we feel we are out of control.  It could be that we feel someone is doing something to us that we don’t want, or someone is acting in a way that we don’t approve of.  The feeling of being out of control leads to an emotional charge.

But in systems thinking, it can be easier to see the full system.  We see that some elements are beyond our control but some elements are within our control.  If we don’t like the current situation, it gives us insight into how to change the system or adjust to fit the system, so that we don’t experience that same discomfort later. 

It also helps us avoid snap judgments of good or bad.  Instead of judging the situation as good or bad with only part of the story, the systems thinker can see elements of good and bad.  Over time we start to realize that there really isn’t ever good without bad or bad without good.

Even very negative circumstances provide a seed of hope that we can overcome.  Then after we overcome we are left stronger than we were prior to it happening.

Or we can use our experience to help others by showing them that they are not alone in their struggles. 

Sometimes a negative situation can even help bond people that ordinarily don’t ever pay attention to each other.  After a natural disaster, stories emerge of those helping people that they never met, simply because it is the right thing to do. 

For the linear thinker, it is almost impossible to avoid judging something as good or bad by simply trying to understand if there is more bad or more good.  Then we apply that label to the whole situation. 

So many who saw their health insurance rates rise due to President Obama’s healthcare plan see his law as a great failure.  While others who didn’t have insurance due to a pre-existing condition probably feel the law is an incredible success.  Both opinions of the law are valid from the individual’s point of view but only look at a part of the law and not the whole law. 

Try to convince one side that the other side exists and you tend to get an emotional response that focuses more on defending their position than on fully understanding.  Systems thinking is different.  It isn’t about defending; it is about better understanding the full system.  Then we can see that there are good aspects and bad aspects of the law but that the totality of the law exists because of all of the separate parts and that each part has pros and cons. 

Start to calm your reaction to situations by using systems thinking to gain control and understand that there is never good without bad or bad without good.  Just because you only see one of those initially, search the system for where there is the opposite.  It can be incredibly calming and help to move forward towards improvement.