Life as Systems

Today I want to share an idea that I’ve found very useful in my approach to life: thinking about your life as a system.

I originally heard about this idea applied to life from Steve Chandler, who says that one of his clients once mentioned that:

Every system is perfect for the result it now gets.

What does that mean?

It essentially breaks down to this: wherever you see a result, beneath it is a perfect system for producing that result. If your result is that you always run out of cash flow at the end of the month, there is a system in place that supports that exact outcome. All systems are perfect systems for the outcomes they produce.

This means that behind every result we get in life there is a system we have created that delivers that result day in and day out.

You can apply this to

  • Your social life
  • Your financial situation
  • Your job situation
  • Your relationships

In fact, you can apply it to any part of your life.

Here’s a corollary of the original idea:

If you want a different result in a specific part of your life, you have to change your system.

In other words, if you want to change, have a better social life, earn more money, have a more fulfilling job, or improve a relationship, you will have to change your system.

Now you may be thinking: “Ok, I get it. But how do you apply a system to my life? How do I find mine?”

In my experience, systems are formed by many different elements. Anything that will change the results you get will be part of that supporting system. At its simplest, however, I’ve found that four categories will have the most influence in the results you get:

  • Your beliefs
  • Your bold actions
  • Your habits
  • Your attitude

I don’t want to go into much detail here about these categories, but do read on for a brief explanation of each.

1. Beliefs: These are the thoughts you have about specific parts of your life. Some examples might include:

“It’s impossible to have a good social life when you are XX years old.”

“Earning more money means working more hours.”

“To have a better relationship with X, he/she needs to change his/her attitude.”

These beliefs rule many people’s lives, yet most are not aware of their influence. And, if you are, it’s difficult to change them. Just trying to believe something different from one moment to the next is a difficult undertaking in my experience. So then what can you do? Challenge them. Ask yourself:

“If this were not true, what would I do differently?”

Then do whatever comes to mind.

This leads right into the next category:

2. Bold actions: I define “bold actions” as things you can do that are out of your comfort zone. Things that you think are crazy, impossible, scary, that won’t work, or whatever other excuse your mind makes up to prevent you from attempting new and exciting things. Yet somehow, deep down, you know that they kind of make sense. That they might work. That they may change your life.

You may see them as a shoot for the moon, but a single action can change your life dramatically. And, if dramatic change doesn’t ensue, I assure you that it will at least challenge your beliefs, even if just a little bit—just enough to give you space to question your beliefs again and venture to do more things that can change your life.

3. Habits: Your habits are actions that you perform day in and day out. Because of their repetitive nature, a small change in habit may result in a huge change in your future life. It’s like compound interest: deciding to save some money every day will mean you’ll have a considerable amount of money in the future. Deciding to exercise a few times per week will have a significant impact in your health after years of repeated exercise. Writing for a few minutes a day will produce hundreds of pages after years of typing. It’s a long-term effort run (the opposite of bold action), but you will reap its rewards, you can be sure about that. What habit can you change now to affect change in your future results?

4. Attitude: Last but not least, let’s talk about attitude. To me, attitude is a decision in how you want to approach a certain situation. Your attitude can be positive, negative, curious, open, worried, fearful, optimistic, critical, loving… there are many options. Yet each option will set you up for a completely different experience. Your choice of attitude will affect your experience at the deepest level. Don’t be afraid to play with different attitudes either—experiment with them and see how everything changes.

So do you want to change your life?

  • Challenge your beliefs
  • Dare yourself to take bold actions
  • Choose and stick to new habits
  • Face life with different attitudes than the ones you usually have

Change one (or several) of the above and your system will produce a different result.