Boost Your Life With Systems Thinking – Epic Web Resource Guide

“We are what we repeatedly do“ – Aristotle already knew this more than 2000 years ago.

In other words – the things we do again and again are responsible for the results in our lives:

  • If you put money aside and invest it wisely, you will get wealthy.
  • If you read good books and apply this knowledge in your day-to-day life, you will become smart.
  • If you have a good nutrition plan and work out daily, you will get a healthy body.

But there’s a problem – based on these few examples it becomes already clear that you need consistency and discipline to do those things repeatedly. Furthermore, you want to use your most precious resources wisely, especially time, money and energy.

How to go about this challenge in a smart way?
  1. Look at your life from a high-level perspective and identify your most important life areas – your job, family, sport, …
  2. Break down for every one of these areas what has to be done repeatedly.
  3. Create systems which optimize and automate these tasks.

The described skill is called systems thinking. Systems thinking is the ability to identify, understand, design and optimize the systems around you.

Systems Thinking is no magic. You don’t have to be an engineer to build your life around systems. If you 1) apply a system’s mindset, 2) learn basic system principles and 3) analyze real-world systems, you are good to go.

This web resource guide is your kick-starter to become a systems thinker. It will cover the theoretical as well as the practical side of systems thinking. However, the theoretical part will be no scientific paper. Rather you will be provided with a mental toolbox to solve practical system problems. After discussing the most essential theory concepts, we will look at real-world examples. You will learn how systems thinking can be applied to real-life scenarios, ranging from business to nutrition to parenting. It will serve as an inspiration to create your own systems.

2 Quick Notes:

  • Every web resource is tagged with two keywords. The first tag describes the information type of the link (i.e. blog post, video, podcast, …). The second tag summarizes whether the web resource is easy to apply (“Practice”) or based on theoretical/abstract constructs (“Theory”).
  • this web resource guide is ever-evolving and thus far from being complete. So, please feel free to send me cool links about systems thinking, and I will add them to this web resource guide.

1. Understanding Systems Thinking

What On Earth Is Systems Thinking?

This section will show you what systems thinking is all about. You will learn how to apply a system’s mindset:

Why Should I Even Care?

Systems thinking sounds nice, but why do I need it in my day to day life? This section will illustrate the potential of systems thinking. You will learn why systems thinking will make you more productive, resourceful, relaxed, and even happier:

2. Building The Theoretical Foundation

Basic Principles

In essence, systems thinking is based on a small set of core ideas. Once you understand them, the whole vision of systems thinking will be far easier to grasp. The following links summarize the most essential principles of systems thinking:

Systems & Goals

How do you make sure you will achieve your goals? Basically, you have to do the rights things on a consistent basis. If you want to lose weight, you have to work out and eat healthy on a daily basis. If you want to become wealthy, you have to put money aside regularly. To achieve this kind of consistency, systems are your best bet. They break down which actions have to be performed in which order:

The Environment

Every system is significantly influenced by its environment. Consequently, a system won’t produce the desired results if its environment doesn’t have a positive influence. For example, if you want to start a business, you need a solid infrastructure (internet, streets, …) and a talented pool of job applicants. Have a look at these web resources to learn the basics of environment design:

Iteration

Every successful system starts small and slowly increases in complexity. This concept is described by the term iteration:

Feedback Loops & Circular Systems

Systems thinking is based on circular design. Cycles and loops ensure that a system gets constant feedback. This feedback can be used to monitor and improve the current state of the system:

Leverage Points

“Leverage points are places within a complex system where a small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything” [1]. Find out how these leverage points can be identified:

3. Putting Things Into Action

Application Advice

Theory without practice is useless. The following web resources summarize the most important tips and concepts which have to be considered when you start out with systems thinking:

Examples

All beginnings are difficult. In order to keep your learning curve short, the following examples show you how real-life systems thinking looks like. It serves as motivation to build your own systems:

4. Top 13 Resources

Top Websites

These are the top 4 websites which cover systems thinking in great detail:

 Top Experts

These are the people who are worldwide known as systems thinking experts:

Top Books

Web resources are a great starting point, but if you want to dive deep into the topic of systems thinking, check out these books: