I don't want to live a life based on decisions made by an 18 year old
Habits and routines are a fascinating way in which the mind conserves its energy and stamina. By putting certain tasks on rails, the mind can tune out and rest on autopilot. It's your body's natural way of guarding against burnout by noon. Tasks that are trivial such as driving to work, taking a shower or fixing your cup of coffee are habitualized quickly which is why you sometimes find yourself pulling up at work without remembering the drive to get there. It's muscle memory. Let's say you're on your way to work and you see a wreck up ahead and the traffic is beginning to back up pretty heavily. Your mind suddenly switches off autopilot and takes control again, recalculating the best route to work based on your familiar with the surrounding streets, how much time you have to get to work, the weather, the density of traffic and a host of other factors. The wreck gave your mind the jolt it needed to get back to work.
In life, the problem that we inevitably run into is that certain parts of our lives need to be derailed every once in a while in order to motivate change. After all, you wouldn't want to wear the same change of clothes every day would you? The pile of dirty laundry and closet of empty hangers acts as the catalyst that forces you to break your cycle and wash your clothes. In many instances, catalysts are just as beneficial as they are disrupting. Adapting is a natural part of living but in order to do so, we have to be intentional about looking beyond the routines of what works and find out what works better.
Dan Miller, in his book "No More Mondays" tells a story about a gentleman who was successful by many standards but who felt he hadn't found success in the areas that mattered. He said, "Dan, the merry-go-round of my professional life has left me no farther than a few steps from where I got on and with a weak stomach." It's easy to dupe yourself into believing you're making progress simply because your moving, even if you're just moving in a circle. Progress only finds its value in a path toward a defined end. Great, you're moving! But are you moving in the correct direction? A great way to judge this is to ask if the scenery looks the same. On a merry-go-round, you may be moving but you'll notice that you've seen that ice cream truck before. Oh, and there's your mom, waving again.
One of my fears is that I'll find myself thirty or forty years from now, having worn down the smooth grooves of my life into deep ruts. No longer innovating, no longer learning, no longer adapting. It's been five years since I was 18 and I can see quite clearly just how much I have grown and adapted the way that I live in that short time. And though it may feel like I've got my ducks in a row at 23, I guarantee that I will not want my life to look the same when I'm 43. To continue Dan Miller's thought, "it's tough to make choices at 18 that will be meaningful at 45." This truth isn't one that's illogical or surprising yet adults are often still living in routines and practices based on decisions they made when they were younger.
Adapting is a means of survival. It's prominence in nature is evident; it's the survival of our minds and hearts that tends to remain subtle. As we are provided the opportunity to live through different life experiences, we learn more about the world. Better methods of dealing with rude people, how to fill out a tax return, what to do when your wife is having a baby, why savings are important... after each learning experience, we come away with a better grasp of how things work. The next time around, we aren't so scared. We might even have a confidence in our ability to respond appropriately. But do we do things the way we did them the first time around? No! We adjust our practices so that we receive greater returns and minimize our losses.
The word iteration is a mathmatical term in which I see a lot of application:
Iteration/ itəˈrāSHən/ noun - repetition of a mathematical or computational procedure applied to the result of a previous application, typically as a means of obtaining successively closer approximations to the solution of a problem.
Let's swap a few words out and try this definition on for size:
Repetition of a practice or activity applying the learned result of a previous application of that activity as a means of progressing successively closer to mastery.
Growing up - whether you're 5 going on 6 or 59 going on 60 - is a matter of applying the principles you've learned from a complete or partial failure so that each successive action is an iteration closer to proficiency. Living is not about finding a collection of repetitive tasks to do every single day of your life. That's not living! That's barely surviving. Living is iterating. It's growing up. It's being better today than you were yesterday. It's an acquisition of knowledge, an application of wisdom, a sharing of understanding, a friendship with constructive criticism and an enjoyment of the journey.