My passion is to enlighten people to the concept of extraordinary lives. The extraordinary life does not re-tilt the axis of the earth. Rather, it is one that is not satisfied with routine and seeks an existence that is just that little bit beyond ordinary. It is one bench-marked by minor elevations of personal habits that pull us above the commonplace. By living this way we can have an impact on the lives we touch. By doing so we can uplift entire societies. How? Through the precepts of optimization.
Dr. Debbie Berebichez, a theoretical physicist born in Mexico City who seeks to inspire young people, particularly girls, to study the sciences, defines emergent behavior as occurring, "when a system composed of independent parts forms more complex behaviors as a collective." It is not just aggregate behavior, like sand becoming a beach, but that which is different from the sum of its parts.
I tried to adopt the concept of emergent behavior for personal development, assuming we could examine our core behavior pattern—the one we unconsciously manifest daily and is the central aspect of our personality that others define us by —and view it as a cooperative of patterns that can each be improved upon, then collectively, what would emerge from the incremental improvements would be a person that is exponentially different from the individual who began a quest for personal growth.
I thought I stumbled upon a brilliant idea, that is until I spoke with Dr. Berebichez, who kindly pointed out the fundamental flaw in my theory. She explained that the definition of emergent behavior means all the component
parts must be the same, such as cars in traffic, or bees in a nest. Emergent
behavior arises from the collective of like components. In my hopeful idea, the
elements of collective habits are diverse, driven by differing needs, desires
and emotions. So, even though my heart was in the right place; my science
sucked. Now what?
Well, fortunately she is a patient mentor. Her solution? Optimization: In her work as a quantitative analyst for a financial institution, Dr. Berebichez works with clients to optimize their portfolios. Essentially, the intent is to examine the elements of an investment strategy and make changes where necessary to increase the vitality of the whole. The difference in her work is that she looks at the pieces of an investment plan individually, including risk tolerance, diversity, cost, time frames, market trends, etc. and then only changes what is necessary to create the best possible overall investment strategy to serve the particular client.
In terms of personal development, she says people must look at all aspects of their lives; intellectual pursuits, finances, personal and family relationships, personal fulfillment, community participation, wellness, and other elements along a broad spectrum, and then concentrate on fixing those areas that require the most attention. She basically scolded me for assuming that everyone has lousy reading habits, or needs to get healthier or has crumby family relations. These things are obviously not true for everyone. I do believe that tweaking those areas of your life that need the most attention will bring other behaviors along, making your total package better. Have you ever bought a new exercise machine after seeing an infomercial? They always give you their "jump-start" diet plan as a
free bonus for acting now. That diet has as much to do with your weight loss as
the silly contraption. It's the general enthusiasm of a new program that has
you eating fewer cookies, taking the stairs and drinking more water, which can
lead to some initial loss of fat. One improved routine inspires the participation of others.
Honest self reflection is the key factor in arriving at optimized behavior. You must begin the process with a realistic assessment of the individual behavior patterns that make up your collective self. This is not easy to do given our reluctance to be honest with ourselves and our knack for self-delusion. (Most guys think they're about 40 sit-ups away from six-pack abs.) But try we must; for only through pig-headed determination will we break the tyranny of mediocrity. It is the hardest part of the process but one that will inevitably inspire emulation among friends and family and extend to neighborhoods and beyond. Cultural development begins with individuals making small changes across the spectrum of daily behaviors, where those changes are necessary. Those changes spread within our circle of