Is Optimizing the Wrong Goal?

Everywhere you look these days it seems like optimizing is the goal and the only goal. It’s understood that if you’re not driving forward with everything optimized, streamlined, and to it’s fullest potential then you’re slipping backwards.

Companies are notoriously guilty of this. If a company doesn’t make significant strides each quarter (strides that are getting loftier each year) then they perceive it as failing. They quickly fire, hire, restructure, or reorganize. There isn’t a second to waste. They mustn’t let the other guy/girl get ahead, even an inch.

It’s keeping up with the Joneses: Executive Edition.

Optimizing the layman

Optimization isn’t reserved for the business elite. This principle has trickled down to the average Jane and Joe. With books, seminars, courses, and countless videos touting the importance and absolute need to optimize every aspect of your life it’s no wonder there’s so much anxiety and depression going around.

Forget FOMO, it’s all about optimizing your life. If you’re not doing it, you’re left behind. And no one wants that right?

It’s permeated everything from our desk space, laundry habits, and hygiene routines to coffee making, speed reading, and the best way to hack making avocado toast. It’s one thing for a top executive or middle manager to streamline processes or to discover a more efficient way of getting a product to a customer, but Bob is now pressured to find the best way to brush his teeth in half the time.

The optimizing trap

Here’s something to ponder. What if we are optimizing for the simple purpose of optimizing? What if we were, say, a minimalist, for example, and only focused on minimizing everything in our lives? How would we truly live our lives?

If we are simply optimizing for the sake of optimizing without putting real action into what’s important to us; if we are only on a mission to optimize, hack, streamline, or whatever buzzword you want to use without creating something real and authentic then where does that lead us?

If someone says, “Hey, I spent all day being a minimalist” I’ll ask, “But what did you accomplish today?”

They fell into the trap of optimizing their life without much to show for it. They built in stress without connecting any dots. It’s like tuning an engine without ever taking it for a drive.

The purpose in process

When you exercise the body goes through myriad processes in order to perform, repair, recover, and adapt. Millions of these reactions happen on a microscopic level that have very definitive steps in order to operate correctly. On the surface our body goes through discomfort in order to perform better the next time.

Gurus have tried to hack this process for years promoting every pill, potion, and snake oil formula in order to optimize our condition. In reality our bodies need proper nutrition, rest, quality sleep, and regulated stress levels in order to accomplish this. The layman can forgo the cryogenic, infrared, nuclear coffee treatments.

The body must go through these natural processes in order to get better. Optimizing just for the sake of optimizing because some book or online guru/influencer told you to will only waste your time. We are better off going through the process, going through the discomfort, the work, the steps to get to where we want to be.

Most routines haven’t changed much over the decades. If you want to run a marathon you need to start running, if you want to become a nurse then you need to put in the hours of studying, and if you want to build a business you’ll have to go through some growing pains of real life experiences. There’s no way around it, no shortcuts.

Spend more time doing and less time just trying to optimize all the time. Let the goal be the goal. You’ll be better off in the long run.

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