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Disorder is not lack of 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.  

Disorder is not lack of a system

Scott Miker

Systems are everywhere. Everything around us is part of numerous overlapping systems in life and everything that happens in our life can be explained through these systems.

Sometimes they are easy to see. We see the solar system, the various systems that regulate our body, the traffic systems in place to help us travel safely, and weather systems.

But many are not that obvious. In fact, many times people assume the situation lacks a system because they cannot see it.

I tend to be a pretty organized person. I like to have things put away and I prefer to have a place for everything so I know where it is when I need it.

But plenty of people are not this way. Instead of being put away, they prefer easy access to their items. In their mind they tend to know where everything is, even though an outsider would view their disorder and assume everything was lost.

When you walk into an office of someone like this, it can be overwhelming for someone that prefers things clean and put away. I’ve even heard some people say that a cluttered space creates a cluttered mind.

I think there is some truth to that. But rather than seeing the disorder as a lack of a system, realize that the system is still there. The system is present and controlling everything.

That was one of the first things that I had to realize when I started to use the systems and habits approach to improvement. I had to learn that disorder didn’t mean a lack of a system, it means a system designed with unseen intentions.

So if we currently live a pretty inactive life and want to start exercising, we need to realize the current systems in place will keep us inactive. It may be that we prefer to relax after a taxing day at the office. It could be that we have an addiction to the TV. It could be that we have simply developed habits that keep us stationary and immobile.

If we want a different outcome, we have to be able to understand the system and then make changes. This sounds much easier than it is. Just think back to the last time you set a New Years Resolution. How difficult was it to follow through on your goal?

We have to learn to break the systems. We have to learn to reprogram the systems. It is absolutely possible but takes a different approach than what most people assume.

They assume they need to use effort and motivation to suddenly do things differently. Quickly, and all at once, they assume change needs to arrive and ultimately remain to create new outcomes.

But the best approach to changing systems is actually to follow the same pattern we used to create the system in the first place.

The pattern goes like this: We make a small decision one day. Then when a similar situation arises we make a similar decision. We do this over and over and over. Suddenly those small decisions become the way of life for us.

The biggest difference is how we make that small decision. For most people it is by following the path of least resistance. It could be to follow instant gratification. It could be to take the easy way out. It could be to through laziness. Whatever it is, we choose the easiest and quickest way to feel good.

This sounds fine, but unfortunately leads to a life chasing short-term pleasure and sacrificing long-term success. The quick answer is usually the one that leads to sudden glimpses of happiness but sacrifices future contentment.

So we follow the pattern but change how we make that decision. Instead of making the decision based on the quickest way to relieve discomfort or create pleasure, we make that decision based on what we want in the future.

We start incredibly small. But the key is consistency. We make that decision consistently so that over time it starts to become an ingrained habit in our life.

Instead of expecting some major change, we start so small that we barely notice a difference in our life. It goes under the radar. This is to avoid our habits coming full force to try and force us back to the way it was (note – this is called a balancing feedback loop in systems thinking).

Slowly and consistently we start to reprogram the systems in our life. They always exist and will continue to exist but we redesign them so that they provide future contentment. We learn to sacrifice short-term gratification. We deal with the current discomfort so that the future looks brighter.

If you see disorder and assume this means a lack of a system, just try to change it. You will soon realize the powerful forces creating that chaos. Instead of trying to fight these powerful systems, learn to slowly reprogram them to provide the greatest future benefit possible.