zen habits : breathe

The Perfect System

By Leo Babauta

Most of us are constantly looking for the Perfect System:

Entire industries are built off of this desire to find the perfect system for anything that you have uncertainty about.

I know, because I’ve spent a good deal of my life looking for the Perfect System in so many areas. I’ve developed nearly perfect systems in many parts of my life.

But today, I’m going to share something I’ve worked years developing: my Perfect System.

Perfect System for what? For anything, my friend. Anything in life. All of it.

But first, let’s look at why other systems fail.

Why All Other Systems are Crushed

You can put your morning routine into the perfect order, but it won’t solve your problems. Why not? Because it doesn’t address your root problem. It’s only a surface solution.

The root problem is uncertainty.

Let me repeat that, because it’s the key to all of this: the root problem we’re trying to solve when we’re looking for the perfect system in any area of our life is uncertainty.

Does your day feel chaotic, overwhelming, uncontrolled? Then you try to address that chaos by finding a perfect system.

Are you entering a new, scary area in your life? Then you try to find out how others conquered the uncertainty of this area, what their perfect system was. You’d probably be willing to pay hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, for their perfect system.

Are you overwhelmed by email, social media, finances, habits, diet and exercise, clutter, and more? Then you try to deal with the chaos and uncertainty of all of that by buying a book, a program, a course that teaches you the perfect system. I have a few to sell you.

But the certainty you’re looking for doesn’t come, no matter how much you pay. No matter what system you try. It might seem like it at first, so you feel some temporary relief. But in the end, the uncertainty comes back, because you still don’t know what the hell you’re doing. The fear arises. You search some more.

Uncertainty, and the fear and discomfort that arises from uncertainty, will always be there, unless you’re doing something you absolutely know how to do (like watching TV, checking Facebook or playing games). And who wants to only do the easy stuff in life? You’ll never learn anything new, never push into greatness, always run from the fear.

Doing the easy stuff and running from the fear doesn’t work anyway. You still have uncertainty, but you try to ignore it, assuage it with the distractions.

All other systems but mine are crushed by uncertainty, fear, discomfort, and running from these difficulties.

The Perfect System to Crush All Others

OK, so now we see why the other systems are all weak, scrawny, laughable attempts at making our lives better. We scoff at them!

I have a system that will destroy all others, crush them like soft peaches. The Perfect System.

I am going to give it to you for free. Unfortunately, it won’t work for you unless you’re willing to push yourself a bit and do a bit of work. I realize that means it’s not perfect for most of you, who want something easy and certain. You are not worthy of my Perfect System, so don’t read it.

The rest of you (both of you), read on!

Here’s the system:

  1. Notice when you are looking for certainty from a system, course, book, and so on. Notice when you’re procrastinating or running to distraction because of uncertainty.
  2. Acknowledge that you are feeling uncertainty. That you are trying to find certainty.
  3. Say to yourself, “Certainty is the enemy of awesome. Uncertainty is the fuel for an amazing life.” Repeat it until you believe it. Say it with gusto, zest and verve! Yell it out loud until your neighbors look up from their phones in dismay!
  4. Resolve yourself to not run from uncertainty like a coward, but to face it like a warrior, like a goddess, like a Jedi Ninja Pirate Demigod.
  5. Stay with the feeling of fear and uncertainty. It is uncomfortable. You laugh at the discomfort in derision, laugh at its pathetic attempts at making you flee.
  6. Push further into uncertainty and fear by doing whatever you are afraid of. Feel the fear. Feel the uncertainty. Feel it transforming you into a powerful being, trembling with the discomfort of being amazing and delicious. Cry out from the pain of it all, the pain of being beautiful and alive, the pain of joining with the likes of Odysseus and Genghis Khan and Joan of Arc, the anguish of your divinity, the pangs and torment of becoming a celestial deity.

Repeat until whatever you’re doing becomes comfortable. Then push into new uncertain territory, feeling the groundlessness of growth and learning and fearlessness.

You no longer need to run. You can stay in courage and awesomeness.

You no longer need to find certainty or answers or systems. You have all you need inside you, bursting with light and goodness, shining your powers into the vast and tremulous universe.


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