When you hear talk about optimization, I quickly think of science and math. Graphs that clearly show that things get better and better up to a point and then when a little bit more of something is added things begin to again get worse. At exactly this point, right before things begin to degrade, is where the optimum exists.
While not a common term in normal conversation, to optimize or not is worth thinking about with respect to our lives. Is it ever good for us to optimize our efforts? Shouldn’t we just keep pushing ahead because more work, more time, or more focus will keep leading us to better outcomes?
Yes and no would be my answer.
The yes part suggests that there is always a point where doing more of the same thing will yield less results. If I exercise to lose 50 lbs there will come a point where I will have trouble losing the last five pounds no matter how hard I try. If I am trying to learn Mandarin, at some point, I will have learned enough to be fluent. More studying won’t get me that much more knowledge of Mandarin to be competent when speaking.
Most life is not that linear. Since we only are in control of our own actions, people’s responses, situational constraints, and unexpected surprises push against our efforts to breakthrough. It becomes very hard to optimize things in our life. There are too many tradeoffs. The complexity of living precludes us from ever getting enough time and data points to decide when we have reached maximum results at the level of effort we have invested.
More importantly, effort that is sustained over a longer period of time is difficult for us to achieve. We are so impatient. We easily get tired, disappointed or frustrated. We normally give up long before we get close to the point where we get maximum results for the effort we have put in.
Life presents many challenges that require much more effort, than we first think is needed, to achieve anything. To optimize is to seek perfection in a world where perfection is merely a mirage.
By investing effort and time, your journey will always lead to the awareness of new opportunities, experiences, connections and understandings. We rarely achieve an optimum because our journey in life always follows a winding road. Because of this it is impossible to ever reach an optimum in something that we do.
Understanding the relationships between effort and results, as told when understanding optimization, is important in sharing with us this realization – put more in and get more out. There is no way around it.
Simple yet difficult. To seek optimization is good because it will require you to first put in the effort. The surprise will come in seeking an optimum when seeing how far we have gone beyond our first dream and where we thought we wanted to go.