Most people think about life in moments. They think about the time they accomplished something, or met someone that had an impact on their life. They think about buying their first home or that family vacation they took.
But in systems thinking, we minimize the events in life and hold the process to be much more valuable. It isn’t that we ignore the events; it is just that we want to see more than the events. We want to see the patterns, structures and mental models present in the full system.
For systems thinking the patterns, structures and mental models are more valuable to understanding the system than the events.
In the book, A Curious Mind, author Brian Grazer talks about the first time he met Oprah Winfrey. He says of that meeting, “Oprah has that deep well of common-sense wisdom. Oprah also knows how to listen. She reminded me that life is the process itself, not the individual moments – that there’s fallibility, that of course there is both happiness and unhappiness.”
I love the line that life is the process itself, not the individual moments. There is more wisdom and understanding of the meaning of life from that line than in most books on spirituality. Following it up with the fact that there is both happiness and unhappiness mirrors the teachings in the Tao Te Ching, which happens to be one of my favorite books.
But most of us search for moments. We search for events to gain meaning. We want to only have happy moments and try as hard as possible to minimize unhappy moments. We will even sacrifice happy moments to avoid unhappy moments when the two cannot be separated.
But when we think of life as the process itself, we can see that the process has to include both happiness and unhappiness. We have to learn and grow and many times that comes from being unhappy about something to prompt us to change the way we approach life.
In order to improve and grow, we have to value the process. We have to understand that the journey is what is important, not just the final destination.
Taking this approach allows us to be content and happy while still working hard to improve. We understand that unhappiness is part of the process as much as happiness is so we take life’s struggles in stride and keep working.
While many people don’t connect systems thinking and spirituality I believe there is a very strong connection. The systems thinking approach is to value the process more than events, to value structures and patterns more than moments. Reading the Tao Te Ching or even Oprah’s quote gives a glimpse into the connection between the two.
Start to change your perspective to see the journey or the process more than the final destination or the moments. By shifting away from being so focused on events you can start to slowly shift your life and the happiness you experience in life. Instead of running from unhappiness you will accept it as part of the process, as part of life. Suddenly it becomes less painful.