Life Is An Equation, And The Variables Change Constantly

Posted on Mar 12, 2019

I think too often we get caught up in trying to make our life static. We have a distinctly human need for what we call stability, and it pushes us to try and nail down every part of our life so we can put it into its designated box with its designated label so we can make sense of it all.

We see this a lot in how tightly we hold on to ideas, beliefs, relationships, jobs, phones, and just about anything else, even when there is direct evidence that making a change would be for the better.

I have expended a lot of energy in my life trying to establish what was true for me (I’m sure you have too), and all that energy turns out to have been wasted. Nearly everything I’ve ever considered to be “true” has, at some point or other, changed.

And it’s not necessarily that the world as a whole has changed, either. In fact, most of the time, it’s the introduction of new evidence that causes what I consider to be “true” to shift.

It’s very easy to think that you have all of the information already, and you “couldn’t possibly be convinced otherwise.”

But there is so much information out there - our magnificent brains with all that they are capable of don’t come preloaded with enough hard drive space to handle even a tiny fraction of the vast expanse of knowledge.

It’s a insane to think that somewhere in that massive ocean of things there isn’t a piece of information that could turn your entire world on its head.

The key is to live life open to the incoming variables.

Looking at life like it’s an equation that you’ve already solved ignores one of the most overlooked truths:

You don't control the variables.

The decisions you make about what to believe, whom to love, which phone to buy, how often to go out to eat, and literally everything else are the solutions to the equation given the inputs. So at the time you make any of those decisions (or determinations), there are certain considerations that are true for you at that time.

For example, if the variable x represents whether or not I’m religious, and the variable y represents whether my religion prohibits the consumption of alcohol, the variable z represents my commitment to my religion, and the variable a represents my desire to drink beer, then the decision to drink a beer might look something like this:

Should I Drink Beer? = (xyz) + a

Now, let’s actually plug in some values to the variables (and just for argument’s sake, 0 means Yes):

Let’s say I am religious, so x = 1, and let’s say I’m Mormon, so y = 1, and let’s say I’m what Mormons would call a “Peter Priesthood”, meaning z = 1 as well. Lastly, I don’t have much desire to drink beer (mostly because it’s never really even been a question), so a = 1.

So that’s (1 x 1 x 1) + 1 = 2, or No I should not drink beer.

That seems pretty easy, and I chose a simple example to illustrate this point. The pitfall that many people fall into is that once they’ve “run the numbers” that first time, they never stop to recalculate that result when the variables change. They’ll just accept that answer as true, even though it’s only true given the inputs

So for example, let’s say 5 years have passed, and now I am again presented with a situation where I need to consider, should I drink beer. Now, I’m no longer religious, so the value for x, y, and z is now 0, but I still don’t really have a desire to drink (for whatever reason), the formula comes out like this:

(0 x 0 x 0) + 1 = 1

So now I have less of a reason not to drink beer, but I still shouldn’t because I don’t want to. It might look like Shouldn't Drink Beer is a constant, but as before, it’s only true given the variables.

What happens when I lose that aversion to drinking? What happens when the value of that variable goes to 0? Suddenly the truth of Shouldn't Drink Beer takes a 180 and is no longer true. Again, it’s only true given the inputs.

The same is true for everything in life.

I’ve been accused (mostly in jest) many times of being too quick to switch between tools, systems, ecosystems, idealogies, etc. I’ve used (and loved) iPhones, Android Phones, Palm Phones, Blackberries, Windows Phones (which I still contest had the absolute best native interface of any of them). I’m constantly looking for improvements in the technology, and good thing for me, the marketplace happily obliges with a new phone concept being released almost daily.

I spent many years using PCs exclusively, thinking quite strongly that they outclassed Mac in every way. Then I got a Mac about 5 years ago and that entire paradigm shifted in the course of about 15 minutes. But now, after having used (and again, loved) the Mac ecosystem for many years, I’m very seriously considering a shift back into PC world.

It would take way too long for me to try and visualize the equation that underlies that particular decision, but the point remains - nothing in life is nearly as constant as we think, and that is especially true of our beliefs about what’s around us.

If we aren’t willing, always and in every situation, to honestly reconsider our stance on certain things given new inputs and new data, we drastically limit our ability to contribute in any meaningful way to the societal conversation:

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