It's everywhere. "How to Network like a pro", "Grow your followers by 15,000 overnight", "Hack your creativity", "Optimize your diet", "Top sleep hacks to restore you", "find the best route from <> to <> (place to place, fat to thin, stressed to calm, you get the idea),'"12 top time saving tips for a busy mum/executive/athlete*).
And while self improvement is a laudable goal, I worry that we begin to beat ourselves up when we try to optimize everything. For example:
I recently downloaded a sleep monitoring app (I’m a data nerd) and found that my 7 day sleep rhythm is 73% regular, my heart rate dip is 15% etc etc. Once I had understood the various metrics, what they measure and why they are useful, I began comparing my score /data / count to the average / baseline / norm. That resulted in my internal monologue turning negative “why only xx% of target?”
Truly comparison is the thief of joy!
Another example of the impact of obsession with efficiency: In getting from home to work by the most efficient route I saved time on my commute by going door to door - getting dropped right outside my building. But during a step count challenge I changed my route, upped my step count and arrived at the office a few minutes later but I soon realized I arrived more energized than getting there quickly…
So in one case optimization (a weasel word if ever there was one) was impacting my physical exercise / well being, and in the other caused in increase in the negative narrative in my self talk.
Those (and other examples) led me to wonder: when we strive to optimize, as we are exhorted to do multiple times a day, where is the white space, the quiet time, the gap into which serendipity, creativity and happenstance can enter our lives? Oh wait, I think there might be a hack for that!
* please note these roles are not mutually exclusive and are often the same person)