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How to Use the Law of Requisite Variety to Improve your Life

How to Use the Law of Requisite Variety to Improve your Life


    Have you ever had one of those days where it was just one thing after another going wrong?

    Did you lay back and take it?

    Or…did you adapt to the changing situation around you to get the best possible result?

    Most people do the former.

    When problems pop up they don’t even try to fix them.

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    And then there’s always the temptation to resort to complaining…it feels good to sit back and have a moan about things doesn’t it?

    Well, maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit.

    Because the fact of the matter is this: The most flexible person wins.

    This theory has been studied across numerous disciplines, but originates from cybernetics – a study of the structure of regulatory systems.

    Cybernetics is a pretty complex theory that coined the term: ‘The Law of Requisite Variety’. To put it simplistically it means this:

    The more flexible you are when life throws a challenge your way – the more likely you will control your life and get what you want

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    What this means is that instead of just accepting situations when they don’t go your way – you have the opportunity to look for alternative options or solutions so that you essentially ‘beat’ the problem.

    Do you think successful people roll over and admit defeat when things don’t go their way? Of course not. They come up with ideas and solutions to ensure that no matter what happens – no matter how many issues are thrown at them – they are flexible enough to adapt and still get what they want.

    Let me give you an example.

    You’re running late. An unexpected detour means you’re faced with a huge traffic jam. You have 2 options – you can accept this challenge and sit in the traffic jam, give in to road rage & frustration – OR you can try to find another way around the problem.

    • Can you take another route?
    • Can you use the time in the car productively and to your advantage?
    • Can you start focusing on what needs to get done at work? Or brainstorm solutions to other problems you need to solve?
    • Can you look at this window of time as an opportunity instead of a problem?
    • Which of these options do you usually find yourself taking?
    • And is it time to make some changes?

    If you look at the most successful companies of the 21st century you can see this theory in action. Facebook, Google and Apple are constantly in a process of change and consistently launching new product innovations. They don’t sit still and wait for change to happen, they move in tandem with new technologies.

    Would they still be at the top of their game if they had remained the same as when they first launched?

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    I doubt it.

    Now – more than ever, we need to replace our rigidities with flexibility, we need to turn challenges into opportunities!

    Here’s a 3-step strategy to implement the Law of Requisite Variety into your life so you can start using change to your advantage:

    1. Lower your expectations

    Expect that things will probably not go your way. This removes any frustrations associated with change – often we have unrealistic expectations that things will always go according to plan. The reality is that life is in a constant flux of change and this too is reflected in everything we do on a day-to-day basis. The sooner you accept ‘change’ the sooner you can work with it instead of against it.

    2. Let go of trying to ‘control everything’

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    Try not to control how things turn out all the time. Be open to alternative options & solutions – when we open ourselves up, often there are better ways of doing things that we haven’t even considered. Being overly controlling is not a good thing.

    3. Change the way you view ‘change

    Instead of looking at change as a problem, look at it as an opportunity and remember – it’s up to you how you react to changes around you. You don’t have to lie down and take what life throws at you! Learn to duck and weave around life’s changes and use them to your advantage.

    (Photo credit: Closeup Shot of Colourful Jelly Beans via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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