I recently read an insightful post by James Clear on entropy.
I remember first coming across the concept of entropy in physics class back in High school. In that context, entropy is a measure of the disorder or randomness in the movement of the atoms and molecules in a thermodynamic system. And in any closed system, entropy increases over time.
What is insightful about the post is that it takes the concept of entropy as described in physics and applies it to our daily lives. Specifically, the post points out that, left to its own devices, each area of our lives also becomes more disorderly. Our health declines. Our personal relationships wilt. And our workplace teams disintegrate.
Fortunately, we can reverse entropy by exerting effort. We can keep our mind and body sharp by reading and exercising. We can retain the relationships we value by communicating and showing care. And we can achieve progress at work by defining clear targets, working towards these targets, and motivating our colleagues to do the same.
In other words, we can selectively choose the areas of our life where we put in the effort necessary to locally reverse entropy and create more order for a period of time.
Seen in this light, effort is a good thing. This in contrast to its treatment in economics. Economics was one of my majors back in college and whenever our economics professor would model an individual’s utility function, there was a cost assigned to exerting effort.
As the concept of entropy shows, reality is more nuanced. Not all effort is a cost.
In fact, our lives consist of applying effort to the areas we value in order to locally reverse entropy for a specific duration of time.