Exploring the System That Is You

Hey there, fellow traveler. As always, it’s a pleasure to share the path with you as we delve deeper into the labyrinth of our minds. Today, we’ll illuminate our journey with the lantern of systems thinking. Remember, we’re not preaching gospel here, but embarking on a mutual exploration. Ready to plunge in? Let’s go.

Understanding Systems Thinking

Systems thinking, at its core, is about seeing the intricate web of connections between all things. It’s recognizing that each part of a system is linked with every other part, and to truly comprehend the system, we need to unravel these relationships. This isn’t a linear path—it’s more of a meandering trail that loops back on itself, revealing new vistas with each turn.

Imagine using this tool of systems thinking to excavate our own selves. What insights could we unearth by applying this approach to our minds, our behaviors, our personal identities? Let’s journey into this together.

Picture yourself. Not just your physical self, but your mental persona—your thoughts, your emotions, your actions. All of these elements weave together to form the tapestry that is ‘you’. Like any system, each thread is connected to every other, creating a complex pattern of interaction.

To illustrate, imagine a time when you felt an intense wave of joy. Maybe it was when you received exciting news or when you spent time with a loved one. This feeling didn’t exist in a vacuum—it was fueled by your thoughts, and it likely influenced your actions. Perhaps you shared your joy with others or used the energy to tackle a challenging task. These actions, in turn, could have sparked further positive thoughts, creating a cycle. This isn’t a simple, linear sequence, but a dynamic, multifaceted web of interactions.

Identifying Leverage Points

But this web is not just about complexity—it’s also about opportunity. By understanding these interactions, we can pinpoint leverage points—areas within the system where a small shift can lead to significant change. Leverage points are like the hidden switches in this complex network, that, when flipped, can lead to significant shifts in the system.

To find these leverage points, we need to be mindful observers and inquisitive explorers of our own minds. Let’s say, for example, that every time you think about a particular project at work, you feel a surge of anxiety. Instead of pushing this feeling away, you could explore it, asking yourself what thoughts and beliefs are fueling this emotion. These could be potential leverage points. Perhaps you’re putting excessive pressure on yourself, or maybe you’re unsure about some aspect of the project. By identifying these points, you can begin to address them—maybe by adjusting your expectations or seeking additional information or support.

Addressing these leverage points isn’t about finding a “quick fix”. Rather, it’s about deepening your understanding of your personal system. It’s not a tool for patching problems, but for understanding them. And, often, that understanding can pave the way for meaningful change.

The Power of Introspection

The journey towards understanding starts with self-observation. Notice your thoughts as they arise, your emotions as they swell and recede, and your behaviors as they react to these internal stimuli. Be mindful of the patterns that emerge, the triggers that set these patterns into motion, and the outcomes that follow.

Let’s consider a practical example. Suppose you notice that you often feel frustrated after team meetings at work. Instead of dismissing this pattern, you could probe into it. Maybe you feel that your ideas aren’t being heard, or perhaps the meetings disrupt your focus. These observations could reveal leverage points that you can address—like developing new communication strategies or adjusting your schedule

around meetings.

This journey of introspection, viewed through the lens of systems thinking, isn’t about finding fault, assigning blame, or striving to change things. It’s about understanding, in a deep and meaningful way, the complex and beautifully chaotic network that is ‘you’.

By leveraging systems thinking, we gain a fresh perspective, a new way of looking at ourselves, which in turn allows us to better navigate our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This approach doesn’t promise a magic cure to all problems, but it does offer an opportunity for deeper self-understanding and personal growth.

And who knows? In the process of exploring your own mind, you might stumble upon unexpected insights. Perhaps you’ll uncover patterns of thought or behavior you weren’t aware of before, or maybe you’ll discover new strategies for managing stress or enhancing productivity. That’s the beauty of systems thinking—it’s not a static process, but a dynamic journey of discovery.

So, let’s recap our exploration. Systems thinking encourages us to see ourselves as interconnected systems, with our thoughts, emotions, and actions continually influencing one another. Through mindful observation, we can identify leverage points—areas where small shifts can lead to significant change. By addressing these leverage points, we deepen our understanding of ourselves and pave the way for meaningful change.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, fellow traveler. Here’s to embracing the complexity of our minds, to finding joy in the exploration, and to uncovering the beautifully chaotic network that is ‘you’. Happy exploring!

Daniel Erickson is the Founder and CEO of Viable, a Generative Analysis system that helps teams make better decisions with qualitative data.