“Living systems require setbacks to flourish.”
Do you ever get frustrated with your progress? Do you tell yourself that every time you take three steps forward, you then take two steps backward? Do you identify the backwards steps as setbacks and failures?
What if backwards steps are not failures at all? Would it make a difference in how you feel about your efforts if you knew that the pattern of “three-steps forward and two steps back” has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the way that all living systems work? What if going backwards is not a sign of failure, but is absolutely essential to progress?
This is the claim of Socionomics theory, which turns all kinds of conventional wisdom on its head. For example, socionomics claim that people are not in a bad mood because the stock market is down. Socionomics claims the stock market is down because people are in a bad mood. In other words, human emotions create the motion in the stock market, not the other way around.
According to this theory, “Living systems require setbacks to flourish.” If this statement is true, it is a radical reframing of the “three steps forward and two steps back” pattern. It means that your setbacks are not personal failures. When you move three steps forward and two steps back, you are following the essential pattern of the all living systems.
If you read success literature, you will often see setbacks identified as tests of perseverance. The socionomics insight is deeper than this. Your setbacks are not signs of failure, and they don’t occur to test your character. They are simply part of the dominating patterns underlying human systems. Instead of treating setbacks as personal failures on your part, what difference would it make for you to see setbacks as essential to your success? What if the secret to success is regular setbacks, not because setbacks strengthen your character to persevere, but because growth requires periodic pulling back?
Consider how often pulling back is necessary to gather strength. The archer with the bow needs to pull the arrow back to give it power to move forward. Muscles work only when they are contracted. The contraction of the muscle is the pullback that gives you strength. Martial arts teach pulling back as a way to gather energy. Using the energy of the pullback is the source of power.
Did you see videos of the devastating Southeast Asian tsunami? Before the tsunami wave hit, the water pulled back. Children ran out to gather exposed fish. And then the water crashed back in an enormous wave, swallowing up everyone in its path. The pullback of the water increased the strength of the wave itself. And so, what if setbacks are not really setbacks?
Socionomics identifies “three steps forward and two steps back” as the recurring pattern of all living systems. Why would you be exempt from experiencing the same zigzag pattern?
Abundance is also part of a pattern. Abundance does not come in straight lines. The root meaning of the word “abundance” refers to an overflowing wave. Just as waves ebb and flow, abundance comes in waves, with steps forward and steps backwards.
What would happen if you renamed your setbacks as pullbacks, and saw them as part of the universal process of gathering strength to propel you forward? Not because the setbacks build your character, but because the pullbacks consolidate your energy and gather strength? What difference would it make for you to recognize that both success and abundance follow a zigzag path?
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