Tag Archives: Complex Systems

Where to Start? Assess Leverage

Assess Leverage2There are a thousand things you could do to improve your health.

Last week I outlined nine of them.

Nine is a lot!

And those nine don’t include things like addressing the impacts of gene mutations; figuring out if you have an electromagnetic sensitivity; or hacking your sexuality.

Once you decide to take responsibility for your own health, it can feel like there’s no end to the things to address. And that can be stressful.

The solution is to assess leverage.

In this post I’ll share a tool to help you do that. If you use it, you’ll always know that (to the best of your knowledge at any given time) your energy is being invested for maximum returns.

Assessing leverage will help you pick one thing, the right thing, out of a thousand possibilities. Continue reading

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Tipping Points (Why resolutions go astray & how to get back on track)

Tipping Points (Why resolutions go astray & how to get back on track)You were doing so well!

Sticking to your resolutions and starting to see results. Increased energy. Reduced symptoms.

And then…

Snapback!

Maybe it was the holidays, traveling or just a really stressful week.

You fell off. And it’s been hard to get back on.

What happened? Continue reading

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Achieving Your Health Goals

Achieving Your Health Goals 2

You and your health are part of a situation.

If there’s something you want to change about your health, start with the situation.

Most advice about goal achievement skips this step. But a quick analysis of the situation (system) that is impacting your health will help ensure that your goals are appropriate and your strategies are effective.

Ready? Let’s do it!

An easy way to begin is by asking: Is this situation simple or complex? Continue reading

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Creative Destruction & the Adaptive Cycle

Embrace creative destruction 2The secret?

Embrace creative destruction.

Because it’s inevitable.

And it’s everywhere.

It’s evident in the turn of the seasons. In the life (& death) cycles of plants & animals. The rise and fall of civilizations.

Divorce. Illness. Earthquakes.

All the things we dread.

Remember the financial crisis of 2008? Creative destruction.

Hating it doesn’t help.

What does?

The Adaptive Cycle

The thing to know about creative destruction is that through it, resources are released. And become available for re-purposing.

Knowing that can change your life. Continue reading

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The Child & Youth Mental Health Epidemic

Healing Complex SystemsMaybe we all have a reason to be here.

If I have a mission for my time on earth, it’s about healing.

Supporting the healing capacity of complex systems~.

That’s what I’m attempting with this blog. It’s what I try to do in my personal life. And it’s the primary emphasis of my career.

In my work, I coordinate a Collective Impact initiative called the Child & Youth Health Network.

A principal concern of all our partners in that initiative, across sectors & cultures, is the current mental health epidemic among children and youth.

We are hearing from our school district partners that our schools are overwhelmed, starting in Kindergarten.

Anxiety and depression rates are increasing. As are diagnoses of ADHD, autism and behavioral disorders.

Our kids are suffering.

We know from our government and non-profit organizations, as well as from youth and parents, that mental health services are insufficient and outdated. And the waitlists for those services are ridiculously long.

Youth who struggle with metal health issues have told us that the current mental health system is like Mordor. As in: “Even if you can get in, you’re still screwed”.

Even if you can get in...

Some data on youth mental health from my corner of the planet:

  • Among Southern Vancouver Island youth who attended secondary schools in 2013, 8% of males and 15% of females seriously thought about killing themselves in the past year (that’s over 1 in 10). And 4% of males and 7% of females reported attempting suicide in the past year.
  • In 2013, 8% of males and 22% of females who attended secondary schools on Southern Vancouver Island also reported cutting or intentionally injuring themselves in the past year.
  • Rates of problematic mental health for youth who are not engaged in secondary school are even higher, as often it is mental health issues, compounded with other risk factors, that result in disengagement from the education system. For example, 68% of homeless and street-involved youth in British Columbia (62% of males & 72% of females) reported having at least one specific mental health condition in 2015.

As I have Collective Impact conversations with diverse cross-sectoral partners who genuinely want to figure out how to reverse this alarming trend, I have to decide (over and over again) how much I am going to share about what I understand about the origin of this epidemic.

About the origin of illness.

Because saying that the Canada Food Guide is part of the problem is still considered a fringe perspective. Not supported by evidence.

The paradigm is changing, but it hasn’t shifted sufficiently yet to enable us to consider some of the primary contributing factors to this serious population-level health problem. Doctors are still dismissive of the role of diet in health.

So instead, we all get together and talk earnestly about better arrangements for the deck chairs on the Titanic. As the saying goes.

Even though we are coming together because we all acknowledge that such a serious health problem is going to require that we work together in innovative ways and try new approaches.

The Healing CapacityI know the system isn’t ready until it’s ready.

I know that because I have devoted my life to system-level work.

Supporting the healing capacity of complex systems.

It’s my thing~.

I know that I can influence systems by nurturing the conditions that will lead to a tipping point, but no one can force a system to do anything it isn’t ready to do. Or, more accurately, the resources required to try to instigate that kind of change make those efforts extremely wasteful and low leverage.

The Complex Origins of Mental Health Issues

I know, from experience, that mental health issues have complex origins.

I have worked with children, youth and families who live with conditions of complex risk for over 20 years. And I struggled with depression and anxiety for over 30 years, from the time I was 10 until a few years ago.

I still need to stick very close to my optimization protocol to be emotionally and spiritually well.

I know that my own mental health is impacted by a combination of:

  1. My personal history of connection and trauma (& the way my brain is wired as a result);
  2. My biological health;
  3. My spiritual health; &
  4. Epigenetic factors: the impacts of my experiences and my environment on the way my genes express themselves.

As is yours.

Through my own n=1 experiments I am working to address these four factors.

In my experience, it is the elements of the Microbiome Protocol that have had the most profound impact on my mental health, specifically through an intentional return to ancestral patterns of living, combined with continual monitoring of my well-being through biohacking methodologies.

I can’t say that out loud in my work.

Very often.

But I feel tremendous urgency.

Because I know that our young people are suffering. Really suffering. Right now.

And the impacts of the origin of the mental health epidemic become harder to reverse as time goes on.

beach youthWhen these children and youth become adults, how many of them will continue to struggle with their mental health?

How many will develop autoimmune conditions?

Because it seems that the origin of these illnesses, in many cases, is the same.

I believe the health of our young people is a pretty good indicator of the health of our society.

How much of this epidemic is preventable?

And when can we talk about it?

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Biohacking Tip #6: What’s Actionable?

Biohacking Tip 6Last week I considered the Origin of Illness.

I made a system map, to portray the role of the microbiome in our health.

That map ended up being a crazy bunch of interacting elements, linked by a tangle of arrows and feedback loops, leading to a sort of doomsday scenario of increasingly crappier outcomes.

It was a spaghetti diagram~.

Just contemplating it is stress-provoking.

And stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which leads to gut dysbiosis, intestinal permeability & inflammation.

And we want none of those things.

Which is why this post is going to deconstruct that spaghetti diagram and get us on a more positive footing with this whole situation.

But before we start the deconstruction, here it is:

Microbiome 4

(For a break-down & explanation see The Origin of Illness).

Deconstruction

Before the deconstruction begins, let’s acknowledge that this map is incomplete.

It omits unknown system elements. We don’t know what they are, so we can’t map them.

It also ignores known system elements, like mitochondria and blood sugar.

Like any model, it’s a simplification.

One day I’ll create a more comprehensive one. More elements. More arrows.

But the working hypothesis here is that what’s good for the microbiome is good for the body.

And in any case, there’s plenty to take action on here.

Constructing & Deconstructing a System Map

Anytime we encounter a complex system, we can attempt to understand it through mapping.

Once it’s mapped, we can identify which elements are actionable. To help us change it.

Last week I created a system map. This week, I’ll identify the actionable elements. They’re yellow:

Actionable Microbiome 1

Clarification: ‘Actionable’ doesn’t mean you can control these elements. It just means that you can try.

Necessary Caesarean births happen.

Some of us need to take life-saving or pain-reducing drugs.

As adults, we can’t change the method of our birth or the type of food we ate as children.

So, the yellow elements are potentially actionable. Starting from the beginning of life.

But let’s simply things further and just focus on what adults can do to hack their own biology in the present.

Here are those present-tense action-items for adults, in green:

Actionable Microbiome 2

But this spaghetti diagram just got worse, right? More boxes, more arrows.

Here’s the fun part~.

Even though we’ve established that we’re adults, this is where we get to be preschoolers. After building this elaborate tower, we get to knock the whole thing down.

Even better, we get to keep the all good stuff (the green bits) & toss out the nasty parts (everything else).

After the creative deconstruction, here’s what remains:

Actionable Microbiome 3

There it is. The protocol. Yours & mine.

Next post, I’ll explore these elements, including a quick tour of the blogosphere to find out what our favorite Health & Optimization experts have to say about each of them~.

But first a quick overview. Of how to change.

Create Change

Some steps for creating intentional change in complex systems:

  1. Understand the system;
  2. Identify what is actionable;
  3. Assess leverage;
  4. Take action;
  5. Observe impacts & measure outcomes; and
  6. Repeat.

The Origin of Illness helped with the first step: understanding the system.

This post tackled the second: Determining what is actionable. We’ll begin to explore those actionable elements in The Microbiome: The Protocol.

And soon we’ll consider #3: Assessing leverage~.

I’ve already covered #5: Observing Impacts & Measuring Outcomes in previous Biohacking Posts, including in Biohacking Tip #1: Gather Data.

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