How Quickly We Adapt

Eleven years ago I switched to a Dvorak keyboard. I was worried that I would get carpal tunnel syndrome if I stuck to Qwerty, so I made the switch. The first few days were pure agony, but then after a week or two it felt as natural as anything else. And, of course, it’s still the keyboard I use and I don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome. Not yet, anyway.

When I visited my friend Derek in New Zealand last year we geeked out and he showed me his linux setup. He used a window manager called ratpoison, which is a tiling window manager. The basic non-nerdy explanation is that instead of windows all piling up on top of each other, they are automatically tiled to be next to each other.

I tried it, hated it, and deleted it.

This summer, because I saw a desktop that used it and looked cool, I decided to try a tiling window manager again (i3-gaps). Again, I hated it. But this time it reminded me of when I switched to Dvorak. I had felt the same way, but that unease went away quickly. So I decided that I would stick with it for a least two weeks. I wanted to quit again on day three, when I had a lot of work to do, but I didn’t allow myself to.

As you can guess, I now use i3-gaps and the idea of switching back to a normal window manager sounds barbaric. Give up all my keyboard shortcuts? My organization?

It’s interesting to realize that although we are extremely good at adapting to things, it doesn’t feel that way during the process, especially early on.

These are two computer nerd examples, but there are plenty of others. Few people find adapting to a new diet fun, but once you become adapted It’s not so hard to stick to it. I used to love fast food, junk food, and soda, but now that stuff doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It used to be very difficult for me to prioritize productivity, but these days it’s the first thing on my mind and is something I enjoy. Neither of those transitions were particularly easy.

I always try to notice life situations where my gut feeling about it is wrong. These transitions often feel like they won’t pay off and that they’re not worth doing, but more often than not that feeling is reversed once I make it to the other side. The practical takeaway I get from it is that it’s best to always force myself to make the adaptation before deciding whether or not it’s worth it. Usually it’s easier than expected, and the old comfortable way is often not the best way.


Image is my current desktop, with a random linux terminal thrown in to make it look high tech.

My brother will be in town in a few days and will take photos of all the gear for the gear post. I was holding out for a couple extra things, but they didn’t all make it. Still… I have some pretty huge changes this year!

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