Goals and Iterations

I've been thinking about the ways in which I relate to time, as a concept.

One view of time divides it up into goals and deadlines. It's like a race. Our goal is to cross each finish line, to complete our tasks, and reach a theoretical perfect state through this series of steps. We are at state X, we want to be at state X++, which will be “better”. An example of this is how we relate to work weeks: We work through the week, to Friday, where we get happy because we have a weekend! But then the weekend ends, because time doesn't stop. This is true of just about anything. There was a book I saw once, called After the Ecstasy, the Laundry that makes this point in it's title. I never actually got around to reading the book...

No matter how good something is, no matter how great the feeling, if we survive the event we will need to eat and sleep and wash and go on living. We aren't, we cannot be, fully focused 100% of the time. We have too many competing needs, and entropy will stop us from ever reaching a state of nirvana in this life.

So there's the other way to look at life: it's cyclical. The weeks roll by; Friday is not a goal but one of the states through which we pass, over and over. We should enjoy each state for the color and shape of it. Thus in our new mental model Friday represents a pleasant expectation, Saturday embodies a lack of requirement, Sunday houses a devotion to spiritual renewal, Monday is filled with a new drive to accomplish, and so forth. This model is less like a race and more like walking a labyrinth, the act of following a path used as a way to focus your energy and simplify your view.

Iteration in this nature lets us be less focused on reaching a desired end state and frees us to see the steps we've taken and the growth we've gained in an endless and iterative cycle.

It's true that there are events that do have end states. Academic accomplishments are an easy example. When you do enough school work you are freed from the cycle of classes, labs and dissertations. But this is an “after the ecstasy” moment. You are freed from school but released back into the world of iterations. And it's quickly revealed that what looked like an end state is simply the start of your next cycle of improvement.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting 100 Days To Offload.

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