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

Zoe B

A strategist, coach and blogger who shows people how to stop what isn’t working for them in life and to start to plan the life they really want. Read full profile

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.

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

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.

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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.

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

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’

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.

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

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