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Learn to see the positive and the negative

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.  

Learn to see the positive and the negative

Scott Miker

One of the benefits of systems thinking is that we start to see a higher-level view of things.  Instead of focusing on one aspect of a system, we can see multiple interacting aspects. 

This shows us that there are often good and bad elements present.  There aren’t many systems that are only good or bad.  Even a negative system likely still has positives.

I’ve read a lot of books and articles and attended seminars that emphasize the value of positive thinking.  They usually say that if we can paint a positive picture it benefits us greatly.

But I feel this opinion is a bit shortsighted.  If we have rose-colored glasses on and don’t see things for what they are, we won’t make the right decisions.  Instead we will assume all of our decisions will turn out to be correct and not properly address risk.

We also can’t learn from our mistakes if we are too optimistic.  We have to be able to see a failure and then make adjustments in order to improve.  If we can’t admit there was fault, then we won’t change anything.   

So it isn’t as simple as only thinking positive thoughts.  We have to find a way to have a balanced approach to our judgment.  We have to be able to see things for what they are and reserve judgment as much as possible.

This also means that many people who are pessimists are doing themselves a disservice.  They don’t see the positive strides that were made or the potential gain that can come from taking on a risk.  They only see the worst possible scenario playing out.

Instead of only trying to be positive or negative in your thoughts, start to pay attention to which side of the continuum you fall.  Do you tend to view everything as a problem or do you justify problems with positive delusions? 

If you find yourself on one of the extremes, start to shift your viewpoint.  Don’t try and jump to the other perspective, instead try to use systems thinking to find evidence of the opposing viewpoint.  This will start to open your eyes to the full system and you will see that one negative element might have a corresponding positive element if you look hard enough.

We all believe ourselves to be unbiased and completely objective but that isn’t the truth.  We are all emotional and judgmental to some degree.  It is part of being human. 

So if we can realize the shortcomings in our thoughts and biases, we can work to overcome them.  We can start to see the other side and make decisions based on a full systems view, instead of just from one aspect of the system that is easy to judge. 

Then we can set out to constantly improve and get better, knowing that even doing that has positive and negatives.  Many times it means putting off short-term gratification for long-term benefits. But we don’t get blindsided when the opposite of our perspective shows up.  We take it in stride and keep moving forward.