Friday, January 31, 2014

Systems Matter, and Also, Cut Yourself Some Slack

I used to think that I was horrible at keeping up with laundry.  I could just never ever stay ahead of the laundry, for like the past 10 years.  I am serious.  I thought I must just be the most disorganized person ever in the home organization department.
luxuriously gigantic washing machines matter

And then we moved here.  And I can get all of my laundry done in two days.  Even when I get behind, it doesn't take much work at all to catch up.  Because we have a fancy expensive washer and dryer set that allows for full sized loads, rather than the stackable or old small washer/dryer sets I had been working with for the past 10 years.  Suddenly, I can keep up!  

Turns out, it wasn't me.   It was the system I was working with. 

And I think a lot of things in life are like that.  We go around believing that we're not good at math because of bad grades in one math course.  Or that we're not musical because we couldn't learn to play the piano.  Or that we're bad at cooking because all those recipes turned out funny.   

But what if we just never had the right math teacher?  What if our fingers were meant to play violin rather than piano?  What if our oven always cooks hotter, or our pans don't heat evenly, and that's really what's getting in our way?  Too often, we immediately blame problems on ourselves, when really there might be a gazillion reasons for them.  We cut our friends slack immediately when something doesn't work out for them, but it doesn't occur to us to cut ourselves some slack.  

When I was in college, I drove a big 4 door sedan, and the driver's seat was really low, and I always felt like I wasn't the best driver because I couldn't really tell where my car was exactly in space.  Even years later, driving a Saturn that was less gigantic, I still felt that I had to really be careful and pay attention to parallel park or even just regular park.  But then, after a few years of being in the working world, we bought our Scion XB, a boxy little car in which the driver's seat sits up high, and I could see very clearly where my car started and stopped.  Suddenly, I became a much more confident driver.   I am a pro at parallel parking!  All those years of feeling like not the best driver, it wasn't me.  It was the layout of my cars.  Systems matter.  

So when you're feeling down on yourself for something, try to examine what systems might be playing a role in the issue.  Look for all the invisible external forces that might be interacting to make things difficult.  Because sometimes it's not you.  And something as minor as a well-functioning washer and dryer can help you see yourself in a better light.  

What problems do you blame on yourself that really might be caused by a "system" problem?   

 (By the way, I have to give props to my husband for coming up with the phrase, "Systems matter."  Because he says that all the time for his work, and I stole it because it's so true.) 

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