Consider the Rate of Change

In Chemical Engineering (wait, keep reading, I promise it get’s more interesting) there are two ways to look at a problem – steady state and dynamic. The two are horribly different, but both have their advantages and applications. Steady State is a fictionalised system, one where everything is stable and set, almost a snap shot of a period or instance of time. If you were to equate it to driving, it’s the moment you’re on the motorway going at 60 mph. Your foot is putting a certain amount of pressure on the accelerator pedal and you’re going 60 mph all the time. That’s a very good model to decide if you’re going to be driving safely, as you know that 60mph is the right speed for the road and can make judgements based on that.

Dynamic is quite different. It is the same as Steady State in set-up, but the model introduces time as we all know things change with time. For example, let’s take the car model as above; the 60 mph instance is the same as above, but instead we look at the whole event from start to finish; the acceleration and deceleration over time. This model requires the “rate of change” principle. In the Steady State model, time doesn’t exist. So 60 mph’s event-time is infinite. But in the dynamic model we might be at 60mph for 50 seconds. Before and after that there has been a change, say going from 50mph to 60mph in 15 seconds. This means you are changing speed (mph) per second (mphps, miles per hour per second) at a rate of 0.667 mphps.

Life is like this, but in opposite ways. See, in chemical engineering, the easier solution is to look at the instant situation, as it has less variables. But in life, just looking at the instant can sometimes depress or upset you. Currently, I am in a new state of life. I’ve moved and started a family (with a puppy). Looking at it in seclusion it feels horribly temperamental, or undefined. The reason that I love Steady State in engineering is that the less definition I need the easier it gets. In life, that’s the opposite.

The more I think about the long game, being in flux seems less important. I see this period as a rate of change moment, one that won’t be obvious until I am back to the normal. Here, in life, there always seems to be a goal. Time is finite, not infinite, and that would alarm but instead it gives me hope and happiness because I know that despite what it seems, in the moment, life is actually moving forward. There is a rate of change being applied.

The greater number of variables that you start to factor into your life, the more you realise that it’s all the point. I think about money and how much I am spending on stuff, but then I have the money to do so and life that necessitates it. I see my career, and in an instant it can both be gratifying and happy, but also sad and slow. But in the long term, I know I am moving on.

It probably isn’t a revelation to think this though. Our brains are designed to think in dynamic situations, it’s only in hypothetical scenarios that the Steady State system is applicable. But when you appreciate how the Steady State works, you realise the dynamic system is appreciable – it’s the best way to think. And only once you realise that you are thinking it, do you realise that things are going somewhere. Not stuck at 60 mph, but accelerating and decelerating all the time.