Let inefficiency be your teacher

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As a child, you were a bundle of energy, happy to prioritise discovery over efficiency.  Make sure you haven’t lost that ability.  Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Let me tell you a parable.

When you were a child, you were very inefficient in your movements. You bumped into things; you took the long way down the garden; you chose the most long-winded and unseemly way of expressing yourself sometimes. But all the time you were learning. By the time you got to be an adult, you found yourself able to make a whole communication point with a nod or a wink. You learned not to bump into things so often – to take the most efficient route from A to B.

THE BENEFITS OF INEFFICIENCY

Your way of doing things back then, when you were little, had several advantages. When you bashed into things, you came out with a noisy crying voice which announced to the world that you were hurt. You sometimes wailed. Your carers would brush you down, and perhaps teach you how to make the journey from A to B more comfortably, without hurting yourself.

Your inefficiency was your learning tool. As long as you remained aware of how you could change, you could, over the months, develop yourself until you became a person with relatively smooth movement, and an ability to look after yourself.

Inefficiency, in this way, is your teacher. The important thing is that you make an attempt to do something. Then, almost immediately, the universe will respond. It will sometimes hurt you, and show you how cack-handed your first attempts were. Your job, if you want it, is to listen to what you hear back from the universe, and amend your habits accordingly.

THE DRAWBACKS OF EFFICIENCY

You may be older now. You may think that you have become someone who moves with grace, and knows what they are doing.

But there are some serious problems that go with the efficiency you have discovered.

For instance, think of the way you move as an older, more experienced person. You can now travel from A to B with great efficiency, using as few calories as possible, and keeping yourself as comfortable as possible. This is one reason why, as you get older, you accumulate weight. You have become so good at being lazy, at economising your movements, that you relax your way into being heavier, into using far fewer calories than you consume.

In the same way, think of the way you handle the world as an older, more experienced person. You can now communicate with the world in a rather minimalist fashion, only having the conversations you actually want to have, and managing your friendships so that they remain slick and pleasant. This is one reason why, as you get older, you become a little bit intolerant. You have become so good at being emotionally lazy, at economising your responses, that you relax your way into being less flexible. You become the master of your own little private world, protected from the outside world and all its suffering.

AN EXERCISE

Just for today, think of some ways in which you may have become too efficient for your own good. Do you take the straight route from A to B, forgetting to stop and smell the flowers? Do you keep conversations short and sweet, forgetting that the person you are talking with might need to share something a little deeper and more involved?

Perhaps find some ways in which you can stay inefficient enough to learn. Try something new. Take a new route. Meet some new people. Learn a new language. Find new ways of experiencing yourself as a child again. See how you fall over and hurt yourself, and learn from the experience.

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SUMMARY

It is a natural part of biological growth, to become more efficient, and to learn to do more with less. The problem is, it can make you selfish and lazy. In terms of your energy use, age teaches you to save energy. While this shows practical wisdom, it can also mark a loss of childlike curiosity and learning power. Maybe, just for today, identify a few ways in which you could compromise with your age, and become beautifully inefficient again.
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