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Everything is a system

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.  

Everything is a system

Scott Miker

When we start to explore systems thinking we start to see the world differently.  We don’t see events on the news in the same way.  We don’t see relationships in the same light.  We don’t see life with the same perspective.

The biggest change is to start to see the underlying systems for everything.  We start to focus more on patterns than anomalies.  We observe a recurring pattern where others see a brand new thing. 

It really has opened my eyes to a new life.  Instead of focusing on parts of the system I like or don’t like, I can see the full system and understand that the good parts and bad parts are all parts of the system and changing one changes the others also.

If we like the good aspects but hate the bad aspects we can’t separate them out by choice.  We have to accept both.

Here is an example.  If we like the income our job provides but hate the work, we can’t just quit and assume the good will remain and the bad will disappear.  Unfortunately it is much more complex than that. 

But this also means that we aren’t locked in to our current situation.  If we hate our job but love having a paycheck there are plenty of options for us.  Now these options may not be between perfect and horrible but they are nonetheless options.

It may be that we have to go back to school to get a degree so we can acquire the knowledge to get a better job.  It may be that we need to start a side business and work hard to grow that enough to become our full time job.

But most people lock into part of the system.  They say they need a paycheck so they have to keep their crappy job.  They don’t see the full system to understand they have options and are choosing to keep going with the system. 

Here is another example.  Most people want to be healthy.  But if we look at the restaurants and grocery stores around us, what types of food do they sell?  There is a ton of unhealthy options and a small number of healthy options.  Why?  Because that is what sells.  In other words, that is what most people choose.

But the full system shows more and provides more of a perspective on the various aspects such as nutritional value, habits, mental models about food, beliefs about eating, money etc.  Through this we can start to spot areas we can change and improve. 

Again it gives us options.  Most people think this means their options are between boring healthy food and exciting delicious food.  With healthy food comes better health and less weight and with exciting delicious food comes an unhealthy lifestyle and weight struggles. 

But there are tons of system options within that.  We can slowly change what we eat a little bit by a little bit.  We can stop ordering a bacon cheeseburger and order a regular cheeseburger instead.  This might mean a slight decrease in our enjoyment of the meal but will probably not really care that much.

If we can systematize that decision and then keep changing small elements over time we can create a drastic improvement.  But it all starts with seeing the full system and then looking for ways to adjust the system to produce a slightly better outcome. 

Next time you read about the latest political issue or watch professional athletes compete on a national stage, start to think about all of the various systems involved.  Start to think about the interconnected parts and then start to imagine what would happen to the overall system if elements of the system change. 

It can really open up your mind to new ways of thinking.  This can lead to new insights about how to improve areas of your life to bring you greater happiness, success, etc.