I have a tendency to treat momentary adaptations like intentional decisions.
Imagine you’re on a morning commute, stuck sitting in a line of traffic, and you decide to get off at the next exit to take a longer, alternate route. And just as you’re going up the hill and around the curve of the exit, you get a better look, and realize the traffic jam ends about 1/4 mile past where you’re exiting. Probably in this case, you do the smart thing, and get right back on the highway and continue on your way.
Fact is, I don’t always do the smart thing. SHOCKING REVELATION, I know.
Under other circumstances, once I’d gotten off at that exit, I very well might have just continued on my longer alternate route, instead of doing the Jerk-Who-Uses-Exits-as-Shortcuts maneuver. Silly, I know. Why would I do that?
Because sometimes when I make a decision, I forget to re-evaluate it when new information appears. I get hard-headed and think “I’ve already made my decision, and I’ll see it through because I’m not a quitter!” I’m committed.
This is one reason it’s so important to set clear goals for ourselves. High-level goals give us a way to measure our choices and behaviors, helping us stay on track and short-circuiting unproductive uses of mental energy. In the above scenario, my goal is to get to work as soon as possible. I choose the longer, alternate route when it seems like that’s going to help me achieve my goal. But new information appears, and suddenly my momentary adaptation is no longer necessary. Or, to say it another way, I need to adapt my adaptation.
Whether writing a novel or improving your max bench press, reaching a goal is rarely, if ever, a straight-line process. More often it’s a very squiggly line. (Sometimes there are loops involved. And messy scribblings. And sad face doodles.) But if you’re working towards a goal, that squiggly line is likely getting less and less squiggly over time.
To borrow a military example, guided missiles typically don’t fly straight to target in pin-point laser fashion. They constantly make adjustments to their trajectory, right up until the moment of impact.
Commit to your goals. Adapt your methods.
And adapt them again, as necessary.