To know “how” you need to know “why”

In the early 90s, when you wanted to drive from point A to point B you would consult a map and try to find the fastest route by tracing the route from local roads at A to highways and then back to local roads at B. If you went off your planned route along the way, you would stop to figure out where you were (maybe at a gas station) and then replan your route.

In the mid-90s, mapquest became available, and you could get directions online and print them. You’d run into a problem if you got too lost, as you would drive off the map you printed and not be able to see where you were.

Nowadays, you have a GPS unit that you enter the destination into, and no matter where you drive it would point to the destination. If there were a traffic jam along the freeway, I would often drive onto local roads in the general direction, ignoring the GPS for a little while to avoid the jam. I would then start following the GPS instructions after a bit.

Using printed online directions is less reliable than using a GPS, and also less reliable than using a paper map. This was because when you use printed directions, you are reduced to following a set of instructions which have a very rigid dependence on each other. If any earlier step is followed wrongly, the later step would be wrong too. There is a sensitivity to detail which amplifies little mistakes and makes them big.

Result-orientation is the state of mind where you keep your attention on the result that you are trying to attain. The GPS is always considering where you are and where you want to be, and the route it formulates is based on parts that all look the same in that way. If the original assumptions were correct, and both the roads and the driving were ideal, then it isn’t so different from following a fixed set of directions.

The differences appear when there are slight mistakes in the plan.
You have to break out of fixed instructions to account for mistakes (well, a smart person would try to salvage as much of the instructions as they can by trying to get back on the route). The GPS has actions at every point flowing from goal of getting to the destination, and so the overall activity becomes more robust, because mistakes or changes to details can be accounted for naturally as part of the same machinery.

In a changing world, a big part of learning “how” is learning “why”. It is sometimes important to break the goal into sub-goals, and only then generate actions from those sub-goals, as opposed to generating a long list of actions from the goal directly.

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