Entropy: A gradual decline into disorder. Lack of order or predictability
As you read these posts, there area few philosophies I live by. One is living a moderate life- so called “Moderatism“ by this site. This allows for a balance between enjoying the present, doing things that make me and my family happy, while also not spending or saving too much. The other main philosophy I live by is what I call “Entropy”.
Entropy has a few definitions but is generally used to discuss the process where orderly things become disorderly. In thermodynamics (the initial definition) it is loosely accepted as a measure of disorder/chaos in a system. One way to think of entropy is that if things were left to be, they will progress/decay, going from ordered to disordered. Think of your lawn, if you do not mow it will go from manicured (orderly) to obnoxiously long (disorderly) leading to your Homeowners association to fine you, your neighbors to complain, and the subdivision to revolt against your terrible lawn. For me, I think of entropy as “nothing is permanent”. By framing life in this mindset I enjoy life more.
So what do I mean that nothing is permanent? A good example is to think back to your past. For this example let’s go way back, say high school. Think back to a difficult time you had in high school. For me, a simple situation to discuss was when I asked a girl out to homecoming and was soundly rejected. I was pretty bummed out, my ego was bruised, and it really mattered to me at that moment in time. Now let’s fast forward 20 years…does that event even register in my current world view or who I am today. No! It was a blip in my life that seemed significant but in the grand scheme of things, was not.
Another example, let’s fast forward to residency. I remember presenting a new/complex patient on rounds and my attending tore into me. It was completely unnecessary, but he did it anyway. I stood there listening to the venomous rant full of egotistical crap that served no one but my attending. It definitely did not serve the patient. I stood there and bit my tongue. Once again, I went home and felt pretty poorly. How about now? Does that event really factor into my emotions today? Other than reminding me to be nice to my colleagues…No! I don’t even remember the names or the particular circumstances that started the tirade. While it mattered then, it does not matter now.
Okay, how about a positive thing. Prior to leaving academia for private practice in the county, I was fairly productive publishing papers (I have since moved my writing energies to this blog!). It was great. I would have a few papers come out a year. I would receive congratulatory emails….and….at the end of the day, none of it really mattered. Those papers I published then have no impact on my accomplishments today. Did it feel good? Sure! Did it make a big scientific difference in the medical community? Highly unlikely.
How about all of the things we purchase or the activities we perform? I have spent countless hours in my teens and 20s playing video games. It provided me enjoyment but did it provide any lasting benefits…no!
Ok so let’s try to apply the idea of entropy, impermanence, and the understanding that what’s past is past to our current lives.
Tenets of entropy or the fact that nothing is permanent
1) Try not to let the small stuff, or actually most any stuff, bother you. Remember that what you feel today will be a distant memory in even a short few months. The gravity of the current situation will soon be diminished to nothing. Obviously there are some things that have more impact- loosing a job, having a serious illness, etc. Even these, while they are very real and difficult now will eventually be a memory. Try and use that thinking to get through the hard times.
2) Focus on the permanent– What do I mean by this? Well, if you are going to take actions then take those that build on themselves over time and make an impact now and in the future. This includes spending your time exercising, reading books, educating yourself, learning a trade, etc., donating?? I would also spending time with friends and families to foster those relationships.
Most important to me is the time spending “Dadding”…My son is a permanent fixture in my life (at least that’s the plan). Therefore the painful sleepless nights hurt now, but I realize they are impermanent and will lead to a better future for him (hopefully he will feel loved and secure). In 10 years I will be missing the cuddles and laughs he gives me now.
This kind of thinking will hopefully allow for a calmer, more level headed approach to life in general. Emotions will not run as high. Purchases will not be rash. Decisions will be thoughtful.
How does this apply to finance?
Now I am not putting this idea out there to give permission for people to do what they want now to their body and finances because it won’t be permanent. Decisions made now can have very significant impact later. Taking out a $50,000 loan will negatively effect your future self. Saving 10%, 25%, 50% and if you are a baller 75% of your income will also have very important positive effects on future you. (By baller I do not mean to “make it rain” at the club…I do not advocate using wads of cash to make it rain. It is terrible financial planning!) Same with eating McDonald’s everyday. Future you will not be happy and will likely be a few pant’s sizes bigger.
What this philosophy allows is to forgive ourselves for our dumb financial mistakes (like I do here) and move forward. Once the debt is paid off, instead of being a thousand pound weight around our neck, it becomes a distant memory. Spending $300 on a meal will not lead to permanent happiness. It will lead to a nice night out and some good pictures for Instagram. Saving and growing your net worth will remove stress. Saving leads to personal and professional growth allowing us freedom to think outside of the box instead of confined to a day job. We will be able to spend time on the tasks we find important.
So what do you think? Is it good to think in terms of impermanence? Add a question about entropy…since it is the titel of the post