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And the Times, They are a Changing

by Deborah Rinner, Vice President, Tero International


It's January. New beginnings. New promises. Did you make a resolution to yourself to change something this year? Do you want to handle your money better? Find a new job? Lose weight? Spend more time with the kids? Whatever you decided to change, did it involve organizing some aspect of your life differently? Most likely it did.

Amazingly, organization is a central theme and task in our desire to change. Whether we want to change our diet, our closets, our friends, our office space, or our career, organizing is the staple. To be different, to live differently, to change, we have to begin to reorganize our life. How do we best do it?

January is National Get Organized Month. Organization itself is a big business. If you Google the word organization you will find products galore that will assist you in organizing everything from your email to your job search, articles on the myths of organization (does organization stifle creativity?) to rarely considered little known facts (did you know that a $100,000 a year manager loses one hour per day to disorganization totaling to $12,480 annually?).

You will find books listed such as It's Hard to Make a Difference when I Can't Find my Keys and even associations ready to help. Have you ever heard of The Society for the Chronically Disorganized? Messies Anonymous? The existence of groups like these goes to prove the ability to organize is a serious attribute that many do not feel comes easy to them, and hinders their overall ability to change.

Organization is necessary to any system. Re-organization is vital if we choose to change. Too often, however, people realize the outcome they are after, but find it difficult to internalize the process they think it takes to create the outcome. Dieting is such a great illustration of this. We set out on a diet with good intentions of losing weight, eating healthier and looking better. We conduct the diet by switching our efforts from our intentions to the organizational process. We examine the food we ingest. We begin to monitor the food intake, thinking about every morsel of food in front (or not in front) of us. We dwell on diet information in magazines, count calories and carbs constantly. Daily we stand on the scale, look at the numbers, look for the change and frown. We see these actions as necessary to change and yet essentially all of those described actions happen externally and have more to do with the food than us. And humorously none of those actions quell a rumbling stomach or quiet a craving for a comfort food that isn't part of the plan.

Taking a system from the outside and implementing it to change us from the inside is how we commonly view organization. Unfortunately this predisposes us to overlook an essential fact of nature and science. Humans create, implement and change from the inside out.

Biologists Humburto Maturna and Francisco Varela in Margaret Wheatley's book Finding Our Way explain that more than 80% of the information we use to create our visual perception of the world (hence ourselves) comes from information already inside the brain. Less than 20% of information we use to create a perception is external. Information from the outside perturbs a system but does not instruct it. Any system, humans included, will be disturbed by information based on what is going on inside of them, but are never changed by simply a new set of plans. You can never direct a system. You can only disturb it. The disturbance initiates the process of change.

If we take this fact to heart in this get organized month of January, how may it help us? How many of us feel we have not stuck to resolutions in the past? We smile as we set resolutions and mentally calculate how long it will be before we have failed at our attempt to reorganize ourselves to change. The gyms and fitness centers are packed in January, but by March they will be advertising specials, as memberships and attendance wanes. Why do our re-organizational plans fail? Is it our intentions that do not last? Or is it our attention to our intentions?

Any plan to reorganize, outside of ourselves will only disturb us to the extent to which something is going on inside ourselves. It will not make change happen. The strength of what is going on inside of us to desire the change will draw on every internal resource (80% already there power!) we have to create it. We then may benefit from an external system, but only in addition to benefiting from our own natural ability to reorganize and change fueled into action by intent. Perhaps the only resolution you need this January is to pay close and constant attention to your intentions, and thank yourself for the changes!

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