On the difficulty with being stuck on a local maximum

In math there is the concept of a local maximum. It is a point on a curve that is higher than the area around it, but not the highest point on the entire curve.

This happens in life too. You can be at a point in your life where you know life could be better, but to make a move from that point leads to life getting worse. Now if this high point is good, you can feel pretty good about it. Sure you could try and go for the higher point, but you may decide the tradeoff isn’t worth it.

The problem is when the high point isn’t good. Here you are stuck between choosing bad or worse. You could decide to move from bad to worse on the hope of getting to a much better life, but what if you don’t have the resources to do so? What if you move off the local maximum and fall into the valley of the a local minimum and never move off of there?

When you ask yourself those questions and you don’t have good answers, you will get stuck. You will be unhappy with the thought of staying, and unhappy with the thought of leaving. It’s hard. Here’s some things to consider.

First off, this is just a model. A diagram. It’s not the real world. It’s just a way of analyzing your situation. Your life is not just one point on a curve, not one score (like an IQ) that says your life is good or bad. Mathematically speaking, your life is more like a set of numbers, all different values on different curves, and these values are changing all the time. Indeed, if you only focus on one number, you may find you life painful and shallow. Some people devote their life to one measure: an award, a championship, a job title, and find themselves disappointed and even bitter when they achieve it and realize they gave up everything just for that.

Second, it is hard to measure things even at the best of times. That job title you wished so hard for suddenly means nothing when the company suddenly goes bankrupt. Or the limited domestic life you have suddenly looks good when a pandemic lands on everyone.  Measurements change all the time as the ground shifts all the time, and all measurements are relative.

That said, it is no reason to be complacent. Have more faith in yourself. Look back at all the difficulty you have had in the past that you survived and prospered in. If you do move off your local maximum, you may get stuck in a rut for awhile. But only for awhile. Keep moving. Keep remembering that you life is more than one measure, and if you are in a rut workwise, for example, your life may be at a high point in other aspects. You are not measured by one number: you are measured by a set of numbers. Better still, you can decide on some of those numbers yourself. Don’t let others dictate the numbers.

What curves you use to measure yourself, and how you measure them, are up to you. Choose wisely, and you may find your life is closer to the maximum point than you thought.

Have a good life.

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