How do we sense if we should keep building or start from scratch?
We want to make progress in the thing we’re building. How did this thing start? It came into being because of some purpose. It wasn’t made and doesn’t now exist in a vacuum. There was a historical context within which decisions were made. There were temporal constraints. Do they still exist? There is value in seeking the context of past decisions.
As each new generation comes to build on this thing, they bring new context. And that context is added to the previous. And the new parts that are built are built on the foundation of the previous.
These layers build up in every generation. At some point, or perhaps frequently, we ask, “does this feel like progress?”, or, “does it feel like we’re building on a junk pile?”
Progress or junk? Both are possibilities. It seems wise to be open to both (really, both!) perspectives. Maybe the thing we’re building was junk from the start. Maybe it became that over time. Maybe it seems like it’s junk now because the context that led to previous decisions is no longer true or relevant. Are you sure? Be open, make the best observations you can and find out, so you can act.
Challenge of Appreciation
It’s a challenge to appreciate the context of the past. Past reasons for doing something might seem wholly inapplicable from where we stand. Sometimes appreciation seems like an unnatural, learned skill. It’s empathy – truly, not just as a verbal exercise.
Starting over can feel more liberating because we don’t have to appreciate past context. We’ll take our chances with what we know and have now. Maybe that’s less we have to get our heads around.
Trash or Keep?
To throw away and rebuild might not be a big deal. Of course, we’ll probably underestimate the effort to replace. Where we’re at definitely happened over time and has a history. It’s led to the bad (and the good) reality that we have now.
If we learn lessons from the past, we might not have to relive them.
Also, new roads will lead to new consequences.
Reroute Instead of Restart
What if we didn’t restart? We might not now be at 100% of where we want to be. If we restart we’ll be at 0%. Certainly we’re at some point greater than 0% now. Progression doesn’t have to be needlessly destructive. The busyness we exhibit when starting from 0% may give the illusion of progress, but it actually starts us back from where we’ve been.
So, when do we reroute vs. restart? That’s a hard call any way you look at it. Daily appreciation for the past can help us be more grateful for where we are. As we truly care about progress, this knowledge and appreciation is helpful.