Have you ever wanted to change the world? Have you truly wanted to make a difference? I know I have, but the reality of change is difficult. Our ingrained habits and routines affect our daily lives. It’s easy to have dreams and set goals, but to create true change requires more than just writing words and goals on paper. True change requires action.
As we contemplate change, it’s important to have a goal or direction. What does change look like? What will happen to us and others if we institute this change? What are the consequences?
In much of my life, I’ve headed forward in a direction without asking these questions. I’ve had a general idea where I want to go, but not the specifics. That’s where my habits and routines took over. I wanted to go to the land of my dreams, but my daily routines led in a different direction altogether.
What does change look like?
And here is the big truth of life. The direction and consequences of my life are created by my routine. My routine is set by the system that is set in place for me. To truly effect change, you must design a system that will get you where you want to go.
For example, if I want to go to Philadelphia, I must be on a road that leads to that city, in a vehicle that will take me there. I need enough fuel and time to get to my desired destination. My goal is Philadelphia. If there is a freeway system in place that that will get me there and I follow proper directions, I will arrive at my desired location. If I don’t own a car, that system will not work for me. I may need to find a train or bus system that will provide a workable solution. The system is the key to success.
For so many years I thought the best way to accomplish a task or project was to set a goal to achieve it. I would write down what I wanted, figure out a few action steps, and head forward. Unfortunately, it didn’t take much for my goal to fail. One setback usually did it. Even when I created SMART Goals, they would quickly collapse. The problem with most goals is they are a good direction, but not always a good solution. They don’t take into account change and adverse situations.
Since goals often failed, I thought the answer must be habit change. I figured that if I could form a new positive habit, I would be golden. Work more, stop procrastinating, eat better; those are some habits I wanted to create. Unfortunately, habit change is difficult, and long-term habit change is almost impossible without a support system under it.
Goal Setting Example.
Let’s take an example of a weight loss goal. For years, I set goals to lose weight. I took on a diet plan, created time bound SMART goals around it, and got started. Usually within a week the goal would get sidetracked. I would be at a restaurant with friends and forget about the goal and order my usual high calorie meal. One or two setbacks like this would stop me dead. This diet plan/goal failed over and over, and I didn’t lose a pound. In fact, my weight crept up year after year.
Habit Change Solution?
Since my goal failed, maybe habit change was the answer. I tried creating better eating habits by eating a certain way for 21 days only to find that my original routine would instantly take over once I stopped forcing myself into the new pattern. I found habits take a lot longer than 21 days to form.
I know I’m not alone in this type of goal failure and frustration. Just look at New Year’s resolutions (80% fail) and gym memberships that drop precipitously after January.
What did work?
What did ultimately work for me was a program called Body for Life, which combined an eating plan, weight training, and a support contact into a 90-day plan. The difference was that Body for Life was a complete and proven system. Thousands of people were having great results with it. If I had a setback, their support system got me back on track quickly.
The combination of strength training and smart eating helped me build muscle and burn fat. I lost 26 pounds in twelve weeks on the program and was able to maintain that weight loss for a number of years afterwards.
This complete system worked for me, where standard goals and habit change didn’t. When I look back at my successes and failures over the years, I find that systems have been the major key to my success.
So what is a system?
Wikipedia describes a system as …
A system is a regularly interacting or interdependent group of units forming an integrated whole. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning.
Wow, is that a mouthful. Yikes . . .
Let’s try a dictionary definition . . .
- a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole, in particular.
- a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized scheme or method.
This is better. For our purposes here, let’s use the second definition above. An organized method would describe many of the systems I’ve used or been a part of in my life.
So if we create a system to accomplish something, we need to ask a few more questions before we embark.
Here are a few questions . . .
- Where will the system ultimately lead? What is the legacy left behind if we follow this path over time?
- What is the impact, to ourselves and others of following this system?
- What is the trend of this method? Will this system take is in a positive or negative direction?
Introducing the LIST manifesto.
Over the next few weeks, I’d like to explore the idea of systems in our lives by asking some questions, exploring some scenarios, and seeing if we can put together a plan for creating workable systems in our lives.
I’ve put together four areas into an acrostic made up of the word LIST. The individual words are . . .
Legacy: What is the ultimate outcome of this system? Are we putting our ladder up against the right building. Let’s start with the end in mind.
Impact: What are the current impacts to ourselves and others. Can we tune our system to maximize the impact without breaking the system?
System: What are the parts, principles and procedures of the system? Do we have safeguards and support to get past problems and obstacles?
Trend: This is the timely question. Will the trend for this type of system move in a positive or negative direction?
Here are some areas that systems should work well in.
- Time Management
- Daily/Weekly Planning
We’ll look at some existing systems and create new ones on paper. I’m excited to get started and I’d love to hear from you. As we get going, I’ll create a discussion group on Facebook to get your feedback. I’ve closed comments on the blog as they are a huge spam nightmare, so I’m hoping a private FB group will be the answer to good communication.
Stay tuned to the blog for further updates.