Using systems and habits to improve provides a roadmap for how to structure elements in order to gain the most from the system.
You start small, building a few small elements of the system until they become more and more automatic as you do them. Because you focus on consistency above almost anything else, these start to fall into patterns where your brain connects them and uses them to automate future behavior.
Some people see systems and assume this means you avoid all types of chaos. This is not true. When you use systems to try and organize your life and align your thoughts and behaviors with your dreams and goals you are more capable of taking on the new, the misunderstood, the mystery, and the chaotic in life.
The reason it is so important to understand this principle, is because learning something new or going into new territory requires a different mindset. You have to be brave but have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. But that is where life truly grows and evolves.
In 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson, he says, “Order is not enough. You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important new things to be learned. Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can’t long tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while you are learning what you still need to know. Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. Then you have positioned yourself where the terror of existence is under control and you are secure, but where you are also alert and engaged. That is where there is something new to master and some way that you can be improved. That is where meaning is to be found.”
By having one foot in order and one foot in chaos, we can confidently explore new areas without being sucked up in the mystery. We can take the new and form new structures in our life to accommodate the new insight.
With one and not the other, we are left weaker. We are either terrified to learn anything new or explore anything that isn’t already known, or we become so stressed and flakey that we can’t use what we learn to improve in any way. We need both.
Peterson’s analogy of having one foot in order and one foot in chaos provides a great mental image for the balance required in life. It isn’t about shooting to one extreme of the other, it is about balancing in order to improve and grow.
We can explore new areas and with solid systems we can gain the most from this exploration. We can be innovative. We can be strategic and then connect that strategy to execution. Without execution strategy is just a bunch of meaningless words on a piece of paper. Without strategy, execution means we simply go through a bunch of random actions.
Using systems and habits to improve is a great way to continue to explore new areas and then immediately put what we learn into new improvement methods. We can learn to execute on the high level strategy. We can learn to have one foot in order and one foot in chaos at all times.