Iterating On Yourself

The concept of iterating on ideas is a fairly common one. You start with the initial idea, critique it, tweak it, review it, and then start the cycle over again until you are ready to execute on it. You can find the concept of iteration in design, cooking, architecture, music, writing, heck, you can even find it in parenting. 

Anything that starts as an idea and ends as an action or product is better off when it goes through iterations. No idea is perfect at conception.

I'm pretty used to iteration, it's the base of what I do in web development and design. My boss and I take the initial idea and look at it from different angles, ask a lot of questions, talk it through, make changes, and then repeat. It's how websites and applications go from crappy experiences to very enjoyable ones.  

What if we replaced 'the idea' in the iteration cycle with ourselves? Instead of critiquing, tweaking, and reviewing an idea, what if we did that to ourselves? Could we improve? Would we grow?

I think the obvious answer is yes, but my immediate follow up question is, "why don't most of us behave this way?" If it really were a matter of critique, tweak, review, repeat when it comes to our behavior, diet, finances, relationships, careers, etc, then we should be able to grow and improve as people in those areas over time. 

What I find interesting about this idea, however, is how many people remain stuck in these areas of their lives. Always in bad relationships, always eating junk, always in debt, always the victim. Why is it easier to iterate on an idea than it is to iterate on ourselves?

Some immediate ideas come to mind:

  • ideas are ephemeral, inanimate concepts free from the baggage of being human
  • the idea is our idea, so we are in 'control' of it
  • french fries are really tasty
  • we prefer to live reactively instead of proactively because we think it removes our culpability when something goes wrong
  • we don't want to admit that we are the problem, it's somehow easier to point the finger at other people or circumstances and declare that the grass really is greener on the other side

This stage of my life is full of internal reflection, which is the impetus for this post. I'm examining the choices I make and finding it troubling. I'm becoming keenly aware of how much I prefer comfort and laziness over hardship and/or hard work and I'm trying to change. 

What I'm also finding is that when I want to change I want it to happen quickly, again I don't want to go through discomfort. Change is, after all, uncomfortable, even when it is for the best. 

In my frustration with the amount of time it's taking to lose weight, it's been 3 weeks...I really need to calm down, I realized that most of life is iterative. It's a series of choices you make based on previous knowledge with hope for future results. We can't predict the future, but we can take our past experiences and use them to make wise, iterative choices that lead to a better future. 

For weight loss, you know what caused you to gain weight, use that knowledge to iterate over your food and drink choices to lose weight over time and regain your health.

For finance, you know the things you spend money on, review your bank statement. Sit down and go over your last 90 days of purchases and categorize everything as essential, nice to have, and luxury. Over time cut down the luxury category and change it to savings, you'll sleep a lot better at night. 

You can see the pattern here: High self-worth and strong self-discipline are the key factors to iterative change in our lives. We get one shot at this before we meet our Maker, make it count. 

Cam Brennan