We all want to be successful and happy. We have an innate drive towards those things but along the way, most people that I meet go astray.
In my opinion the reason is simple. It is something that I have experienced and came face-to-face with.
The reason is that we turn to the quickest way to be successful and happy. This might sound like a good thing, that we are driven to do whatever is necessary to be successful and happy right now, not delaying this pursuit any longer.
But it typically manifests in a different way. Instead of using this to drive our behaviors towards success and happiness it drives us towards a quick solution.
The quick solution is typically one that sacrifices the future for now. So we want to be happy and grab donuts or ice cream. We want to be successful so we quit the job we have currently because it is holding us back.
But these choices aren’t building towards the future. They are sacrificing the future. Eat too many donuts and ice cream and suddenly you have a weight issue. This means that in the future it will be harder to be happy.
Keep quitting jobs as soon as they become uncomfortable and we feel we should get more than what we are getting, and you won’t progress in your career. You will simply keep jumping from new area to new area and have to start over every time.
In other words, most people (myself included) gravitate towards the quick, easy fix. If I have a bad day at work, I think about enjoying a glass of wine at night, not reading up on organizational architecture.
This means that we can’t simply rely on our natural decision-making. We can’t assume our split-second decisions are best long-term, because most of the time they are the worst long-term decision we can make.
A better way to approach success and happiness is to develop systems to take you there. These systems can be behavioral, intellectual, emotional etc.
The key here is to see more than our split second reactions and hone in on the overall patterns and structures in place. We can start to see that we consistently make choices in certain ways or we have routines in place where we act on autopilot, relying on habit instead of conscious effort.
Scott Adams in the creator of the Dilbert cartoon. He is also a #1 New York Times bestselling author. In his book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, he addresses the importance of systems.
He says, “Throughout my career I’ve had my antennae up, looking for examples of people who use systems as opposed to goals. In most cases, as far as I can tell, the people who use systems do better. The systems-driven people have found a way to look at the familiar in new and more useful ways.”
The reason is that when we start to see the full system we can make better decisions consistently, which then turn into habit. We can see that when we have a bad day at work and suddenly want to quit our job that will ultimately leave us in a worse situation, not a better one. We may alleviate the discomfort of the job now, but we are sacrificing too much. Plus we will never leave our comfort zone and grow if we aren’t willing to work through discomfort.
We can tie the bad day with the donut or ice cream to realize that the sudden rush of sugar might make us feel better in that exact moment, but it will make us feel worse soon after.
This will lead the systems-driven person to design their pattern. They might find something more beneficial to do as a stress reliever, such as exercise or read.
What starts to happen is that the systems-driven individual has completely different responses to common situations. They design a system that improves them in the future, instead of sacrificing the future for a quick fix now.
It might feel strange at first to start to look at your life as a series of systems but over time it will become natural. You will instantly recognize patterns in life and quickly be able to determine the higher-level structures involved. These often go unnoticed so as you start to notice them you can start to address them.
This can lead you on a journey towards success and happiness and avoid sacrificing for the future for now. It can help you automatically do the right steps and react the right way based on what you decided, not just what your initial emotional response is. Overall this can lead to an improved you and a more successful and happy version of you in the future.