Plotting the Curve of Life

In life, we like to talk about our highs and our lows, the changes and trends, the roller coaster that we live on.

I like to think about these factors as line segments on a graph, and — taking the analogy with a grain of salt — use this approach to think about the quality and progression of my own life.

If we remain cognizant of the limitations of this approach, and the fact that there are many ways to graph such a thing, none of them authoritative, then we gain interesting insights into our own lives, and can take a broader perspective that makes it easier to let the day by day unfold without stressing too much over individual events. We can make changes in life, big or small, in hopes of changing the curve of our lives, and yet not worry too much if things don’t go as planned, since the curve is still being plotted.

Here are some thoughts I keep in mind when it comes to this graphical approach to life’s journey:

• Not every high or low is indicative of a trend. Life has many local minima and maxima — and they’re not all inflection points.
• Understand the fit of the curve to the larger graph of life. A month can be long, but in the course of your life it is a tiny period. Imagine the overall graph.
• Likewise, to stay humble, recognize your curve on the graph that is the totality of history, and observe just how flat it really is.
• That being said, the tiny curves may still have a huge impact on you personally, so recognizing the warning signs for an inflection point is a valuable skill — apply pattern recognition to these instances the same as you would to any other, and keep your algorithm flexible.
• Understand the subjective nature of the subject you are plotting. Your curve looks different from other perspectives. But for your own appreciation, only the inside view counts.
• Minor changes to the value of the independent variable may have unexpectedly large impacts on the output of the function that is your life — no one’s worked out how that particular function works, and everyone’s is different, so take your best shot.
• On the other hand, remain cognizant of the fact that not all input value changes have a visible impact at standard zoom levels. Complex functions have tricky mappings.

Balancing the subjective and objective in a subject as complex as life is no easy matter. Taking the progression of our lives to account in a visual way can make it easier to gain perspective, and hopefully, make better decisions as life marches forward.

Written by

Martin (Chaim) Berlove

Software engineer and renaissance man. I love the human side of computing.

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