The Power of Personal Systems


Here’s the deal, we will rarely be able to sustain any personal change – until we back it up with a system. The creation of habits and routines are simply not enough. Once we learn to harness the power of systems, our potential for change in both life and work is dramatically enhanced. To make my point, let’s start with a personal change example: the desire for enhanced fitness through more consistent exercise. We often hear the typical refrain:

I’ve got to get to the gym more.

So, the busy manager, Jill, sets a realistic target of three weekly visits to the gym to exercise. She blocks time on her schedule and the first two weeks see a total of five visits. Not bad!

But the normal interruptions of a chaotic work schedule eventually kill the momentum and the “three weekly visits” target is rarely met. Discouraged by the inconsistency, Jill finally abandons the effort.

Now consider the systems approach.

Instead of making fitness a scheduled event – we make it part of our life. In the example above, we discover that Jill actually likes to walk. This is a great starting point, since we all have lots of access to walking and it doesn’t always have to be scheduled.

It starts simple. Jill looks for daily opportunities to walk more. Sometimes it is as simple as taking the stairs or picking a lunch spot she can walk to. When possible, she schedules meetings outside of her office. She even convinced a colleague with whom she had a regular one-on-one meeting to hold the session while walking. Not surprisingly, both found the “walk and talk” format more effective! Early in the process, Jill also commits to walking one day a week to work (which is approximately 2.5 miles).

With not much effort, Jill finds herself walking more than three times as much as normal – and it feels great. To help measure the effort, she buys one of those fitness bands. Now walking has become more of a fun game to continually exceed her personal best. After about a month, she started learning how to incorporate weights and stretching into her walking regimen to gain more of a full body experience. It wasn’t long before Jill’s body started to crave the walking regimen and . . .

It became impossible “not to do it!”

Friends could not help but notice her new levels of fitness and energy. Jill was soon teaching the “system” to others. Like Jill, they found that walking was easy to integrate into a busy life – as well as increasingly expandable as an exercise regimen. With a community of friends forming, the “system” was now supported by new advocates who brought new insights and energy to the effort. It now feels like . . .

The system is growing and self-sustaining!

Here’s the big takeaway: We can only sustain what we can systemize. So what’s the opportunity for you in your work or personal life to unleash the simplicity and power of systems?


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