The Good Life Project

In Search of The Bona Vita

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Why think in systems?

One of the most important things that many specialists forget to take into consideration is the context within which problems develop. Often we focus on symptoms but not always the factors that may be contributing to them. This is a critical point in almost every situation. A specific example stemming from a medical problem may serve as a metaphor for this concept.

A few years ago, I had pain in my knee. Each person or specialist that I consulted approached the problem from his own perspective. My MD prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication. When that didn’t work I talked to my personal trainer who was also a physical therapist. From there I was sent to get an MRI and to see a knee specialist. After months of no relief I tried a podiatrist who said that I needed an orthotic. When that didn’t work I went to someone who took the whole system into consideration. He looked at my body alignment, feet, back, knee, the work that I do, how I sit in my chair and in my car, and how I walked. He took into consideration my physical and psychological stressors. With only a few minor adjustments, at the end of that session, I felt immediately better and have had no pain or discomfort since.

I cannot stress how important it is to look at an entire system in order to make it run smoother. If we take for a moment a child having behavior problems at school (or an employee at the office for that matter), we have to take in to consideration, the person’s psychology and personality, his work and outside stressors, the people around him (teachers, supervisor, colleagues, other students etc) and intervene while keeping all those in mind. Maintaining the example of the child, of course he may have some psychological or physiological issues but those may be exacerbated or ameliorated by his surroundings. Way too often I can intervene with an individual but when he or she returns to their context, they regress to their bad behaviors. Thus, it is critical that we must consider the entire system or context in order to create a solution that will work.