Yesterday, I read a brilliant text about where to start if you want to change a system: “Places to Intervene in a System” by Donella H. Meadows. It is actually written with regards to changing national and global (economic, social, etc.) systems; but since a system is simply “a set of two or more interrelated elements, which can be subdivided into parts” (Meadows: p. 7), human bodies, minds, and lives count as systems, too.
How to change your life 101
Over the years I tried to change my life in different ways – sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much -, so I was eager to find out if there were some basics that I had missed. According to the author of that article, the three most powerful leverage points to use if you want to change a system, like your life, are:
1. The power to transcend paradigms.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system and its goals arise.
3. The goals of the system.
The goals of the system? The moment I read this, it occurred to me that I didn’t know what my overarching goal in life was. (And that this would be a fabulous topic for my next blog post.)
Whether you know what your overarching goal is, or not, you can’t NOT have a goal. Even if you were sick in bed, or depressed all year round, you’d have a goal: to survive and get better. It’s obviously better if you are AWARE of what your goal is, because then you’re in a position to change it if you don’t like it. Anyhow, here’s what a goal does:
“If the goal is to bring more and more of the world under the control of one central planning system (the empire of Genghis Khan, the world of Islam, the People’s Republic of China, Wal-Mart, Disney), then everything further down the list (…) will be pressured or weakened to conform to that goal.” (Meadows: p. 11)
So if your goal is to make money / be safe financially / have as much fun as possible etc., all your actions will be aligned with that goal, or if you have other, conflicting, less important goals, they will be WEAKENED, which I think means you won’t put in as much energy as is necessary to fulfill them.
To change your life, you don’t try to change your lesser goals. Instead, you go for the top: “The big leverage points are the goals of entire systems.” (Meadows: p. 11)
Know your goal in 2014 and stop living like a headless chicken (if that’s what you’ve done)
I’m writing this now because it’s traditionally the time of the year when people think about how they have live the past year and how they want the coming year to be.
Living a life that satisfies you is much easier when you
a) know what your real goal is (the one the feels really good to you), and
b) know what goal you have been (unconsciously?) serving up to now – out of confusion, fear, laziness or simply because you have never thought about what the whole point of your existence is.
When I look at how I’ve lived my life this year, I would like to say that I had a big plan, knew what I was doing all along, and that my goal was to “fulfill my purpose in life” or some lofty thing like that. Without having had too much time to think about it, I’d say that my (often unconscious) goal this year was to have as much time as possible for myself to do as I please while not being bothered by other people.
Is that the primary goal that I want to serve in 2014? No. First of all, I want to be conscious of what my goal is. And “being left alone” isn’t the right goal for me, because it led me to stay home too often and to be lonely more than I could handle. I realized this year I can have great fun with other people, really enjoyable times, and that most of the people I meet are nicer, more interesting and less annoying that I tend to expect (although I do have a few exceptions in mind). In spite of everything I have achieved and learned, I don’t want to continue serving my old goal.
What is YOUR new goal? I still have a few days to think about mine, but I intend to know what I’m doing in 2014, and not waste my efforts, time and energy so much on something I don’t really want and that doesn’t make me happy.
Have a happy new year,
P.S. Remember I said that changing the goals of a system was only number 3 in the top 3 of places to intervene in a system? I’d like to write about the other two in future newsletters. For now, determining a goal for 2014 is enough work for me (and you).