“Quotes in Action” – Day 17

"I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's." ~ William Blake

When we carry out repeated behaviors in a predictable way, we gain a couple of benefits:

  1. We minimize the mental energy required for making choices and decisions
  2. We gain confidence that we are proceeding in a manner that will be successful
  3. We acquire increased clarity as to the length of time needed to complete particular tasks
  4. We can be relied upon to deliver consistency

Some people naturally gravitate toward handling daily life in a predictable way. Others highly value spontaneity and flexibility. The good news, it is possible to embrace systems regardless of your personality. The key is to customize solutions that feel comfortable.

Today’s quote is, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s,” from English poet and printmaker William Blake. These words remind me that we have both the power and the responsibility for establishing our own patterns for living. If we don’t, odds are that we will end up following someone else’s system, and this may – or may not – work out well.

I challenge you today to consider where you either lack a good system, or where you might be using someone else’s system. This could be a system for something at home, at work, or out and about in society. Pay attention to any situation where you feel awkward, out of control, or like you are constantly “rowing upstream.” Maybe it is your morning routine, the way you exercise, how you pay bills, the way you go about planning meals, how you connect with coworkers on your team, or any other aspect of life. Ask yourself if there is a method of behavior that you could put in place to make things run more smoothly and pleasantly.

Do you typically embrace systems? Can you think of a situation where a new system might improve your quality of life?

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18 thoughts on ““Quotes in Action” – Day 17”

  1. The essence of your idea resonates so deeply with me. So often we feel or my client’s feel that we “should” do something a certain way. Maybe that’s how we were taught. Or perhaps it’s how everyone else does it. But when we can release those restrictions, we’re free to figure out systems that work for who we are and how we think and function. The times I have helped my clients to do that has been so rewarding. And the same is true for me. When I’ve challenged myself to question my own systems, some great changes have been made.

    There is a balance between maintaining a system and being open to morphing it as needed.

    1. That’s a great point, Linda. We may “outgrow” even our own systems, and it is good to revisit them periodically. I’ve found that every now and then, I change the way I’ve been doing something for years.

      For instance, I used to ball up newspaper to start a fire in my fireplace. I’d been doing that for 30 years, in a specific way. Then I found Duraflame firestarters, which work better and create less waste. This is a silly example, but shows that even an old dog needs to stay open to new and better tricks!

  2. I love this quote and the way you’ve approached it, and while it’s true for our systems for organizing ourselves, it’s also applicable in other ways. So often, we accept the status quo (like in a political system) when fighting for a system that is just and workable for ourselves (and others) would make everything better. From study skills or bill-paying to organizing ourselves (as a household or as a nation), creating a system that works for us is key. Great job!
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Organize To Pay Your Bills On TimeMy Profile

    1. I think it is empowering to think broadly, as you’ve done in this comment. We should be open to the possibility that a status quo may need to be changed, in any realm, and we might have the right idea of how to make it work better!

  3. I like systems so other people can follow them and not ask me where everything is. If the system doesn’t work for them there is a problem. We usually adjust it so it works for everyone. The systems I have the most problem with are when I am on a committee and the chair has an unstructured system. It is hard to feel accomplishment when I don’t feel forward movement is happening.

    1. That’s a great example, Julie. I’ve been on committees where I feel like we are all just spinning our wheels, or even simply there to “bless” whatever the leader has decided. No fun!

  4. I cannot think of an exact situation or pattern of behaviour but I love your challenge (the last paragraph) of really thinking about whether certain systems are working to our advantage or not. And if not, how can we simplify things or learn some new way of doing things. Sometimes I do feel like I do some things the hard way or learn the hard way. Ugh!! I want to learn the easy way from now on!
    Kim recently posted…Do You Want To Be The Queen Of Your Home?My Profile

    1. It takes a bit of mindfulness to challenge our own systems, right Kim? Sometimes my inspiration comes from seeing how another person handles a task that I have been doing differently. Other times, I become frustrated with the cumbersome nature of the system I have in place and I decide, “there must be a better way!”

    1. I like to insert as much predictability as I can too, Janet. There always seems to plenty that surprises me, so I structure what I can to help me when those “unexpecteds” arise!

  5. Seana, I just love these quotes. A simple phrase or sentence and it really gets us all thinking! And I have so many thoughts here. On the one hand, our brain might be wired differently, so using someone else’s system can be a huge fail and bring a whole load of shame and thoughts such as “why can’t I stick to this” or “What is wrong with me”. On the other hand, some people are prone to overthinking (ME!) and can overcomplicate what can and should be a simple routine. I guess the key is to know when to tweak the system to fit your own quirks. A simple idea that takes a lifetime to perfect, IMHO. I started to do this by evaluating when and how I work best in my business. It’s very freeing!

    1. That’s such an excellent perspective, Jill. For me, I know it’s time to reevaluate a system when it just feels cumbersome, or even worse, I am failing to stick with it. If I can’t come up with something on my own, that’s when I start looking to others who may have a better idea.

      Thanks so much for this comment!

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