Is the evil ‘system’ restricting you?

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

Do you really REALLY want something? A promotion? New job? More time off work? But ‘the system’ is preventing you from achieving it.

If there is ONE THING the last couple of years have taught me, if you want something you have to go and get it. Waiting for the ‘system’ to change or for it to come along is not an option.

And when I say ‘system’, I mean:

  • Promotion is only to fill ‘dead-mans shoes
  • Only thin people can be models
  • To be successful, we need to climb the corporate ladder
  • I have to wear a suit to work
  • I can only have two weeks vacation
  • To get a job in advertising, I need to have a marketing degree

A few years back, I was stuck in ‘corporate’ jobs where (quite frankly) I was unhappy. I felt unfulfilled and oppressed. I used to think that this was ‘other people’ causing this. I can remember thinking that the system was unfair, biased towards other people, and restrictive to my goals. In my head, it was the system that was at fault. Boy, was I wrong.

But it’s easy to fall into this trap. From childhood, we’re brainwashed – conditioned – to believe that success, fulfilment and opportunity is limited to a narrow range of possibilities, manifesting themselves as job titles or vacation allowances. In my case, careers advice came from people inside the system, so aspirations were borne from the very things that I was growing to despair with. There is little in the way of an exit unless it’s considered failure, or so it feels.

The thing is, feeling stuck within a system is accepting that there is nothing possible outside of these ‘norms’. A system is a norm. But norms are just norms – they are the standard model, the typical environment, the average situation. They are self-limiting beliefs. But there are possibilities that don’t fit the norm – and if that’s what you want then you must change the wiring of your outlook and accept that your future is outside of the norm.

Outside of the norm: not the same as as abnormal, freakish, or strange. Instead, it’s different, unique or special.

Think outside of your box, and then redefine your box.

If your desires lie outside of these norms (outside the box), then, most importantly, is to consider what is my box? Our boxes start out by being defined by the norm (the usual; the standard; the average) of other people. It is a false construct and doesn’t actually exist.

But a box is a helpful way of containing our thoughts. So re-draw your box with your desires inside it.

What you want is perfectly normal to you. It’s reasonable to you. It’s achievable to you.

I re-defined my box, and a whole new range of possibilities emerged, and new opportunities presented themselves. Within a few weeks of redefining my box, I’d left my stifling corporate job and setup my own consultancy business. I still work inside corporate organizations, but as a supplier and consultant – so I am not ‘stuck’ within them.

Dismiss, not fight, the ‘system’.

Achieving your desires will involve bucking the system and fighting for what you want, or so it may seem. But I don’t advise taking this attitude as it’s synonymous with battling fresh air. The system is just a construct, and doesn’t exist in a way that presents a physical boundary to overcome! Anything that you perceive as an obstacle is just a ‘thing’ – a self-limiting belief.

For example, you want more time off work to be with your kids. The policies state you get 10 days off as standard. This is not an obstacle. It is the norm. Who knows if you can get more vacation time, until you ask? Or negotiate?

Instead, just dismiss the system as a barrier and push through the open space (OK – I know this is becoming abstract now, but stay with me!) More tangibly, what you desire is there to go for and reach at – as long as it is reasonable and respectful of others.

Example: Lori Phillips lives in Birmingham, England. In 2004, Lori felt ‘stuck’ in a product support role in a major PC manufacturer. She hated it, and really wanted to become an Software Engineer. But listening to her mother, women aren’t engineers. Listening to her father, Lori isn’t good at math. Her colleagues were sure that software engineer jobs aren’t offered to non-graduates. Of course, these people were right if Lori believed them to be so.

A decade on, Lori was still in product support. That was, until she met Caro, an old girl friend who had become (you guessed it) a Software Engineer – without a degree or qualifications in math. Caro hadn’t had the same negative influence, and therefore wasn’t caught in a ‘system’. Caro helped Lori to realise it was possible, after all.

With a role-model, inspiration, and bloody hard work and study, Lori landed her dream Software Engineer role.

Don’t listen when other people tell you that you can’t do it.

Like Lori experienced above, there are other people in the ‘system’. They will tell you what you desire isn’t possible. “You can’t get more vacation time – we are limited to ten days!” What motivates these people is their own fear, doubt and perhaps envy. The ‘system’ is place of comfort and low risk. Rocking the boat is dangerous… don’t believe it.

You have to ignore them when they tell you this.

Better still – become the role-model to these people and show them it can be done, like Caro above. Go get it – and inspire them to go get it for themselves. In any disruptive situation, somebody has to go first!

Uber did it. Facebook did it. AirBNB did it. Elon Musk is doing it. Lori Phillips did it.

Familiar names and faces (you now know Lori). These people didn’t accept the ‘system’ and its pesky restrictions. They thought outside of their box and then redefined their box. They are the role-models.

Additional Resources:

  1. 7 Limiting Beliefs Keeping You from Living Your Best Life
  2. 4 Steps to Release “Limiting Beliefs” Learned From Childhood

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