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What we get wrong about time

Right this moment I’m going to show you a helpful lesson about time from an enormous tree.

No, not Groot.


If you happen to drive down the Avenue of the Giants in Northern California, you’ll end up weaving out and in of among the most majestic, gigantic redwood bushes you’ll ever see.

If you happen to’re having hassle picturing this in your thoughts, suppose again to the Endor speeder chase scene in The Return of the Jedi. This scene was filmed close to the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

And as you’re driving down the Avenue of the Giants, you’ll finally cease at a nondescript present store alongside the aspect of the street, and that is the place issues get even crazier.

You’ll encounter a slice of a redwood tree standing on its aspect. This tree has a diameter of 9 toes and was over 300 toes tall on the time of its felling, the size of a soccer discipline.

The primary remark you’d make: “Candy sassy molassy, this tree is gigantic.”

The subsequent jaw dropping second occurs if you get nearer and see its concentric rings. As all of us realized in grade faculty biology class, the rings of a tree can inform us the tree’s age: every ring represents a yr and tells a narrative.

That is the place the enjoyable occurs.

Scattered throughout this dissection of the tree are little identify tags, figuring out key moments in historical past, beginning within the heart and dealing its means outward. Picture right here from Barry Swackhamer:

1000AD: “Vikings Uncover America.”

1096AD: “Oxford College Based.”

1218AD: “Genghis Khan conquers Persia.”

This head-exploding journey by means of historical past continues, from the Ming Dynasty to the Renaissance to the Printing Press, Cortez conquering the Aztecs, Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, Boston Tea Celebration, and so forth, to the founding of the California Nationwide Parks System in 1927, and past.

Right here you’ll be able to see everything of contemporary historical past, separated by a number of toes inside tiny concentric rings inside a 1000+ yr previous tree.

It’s wild that from the angle of a tree, just some toes (1 meter) separate “Vikings reaching America,” and trendy life 1000+ years later. Zoomed out, it’s wild to see how insignificant this time hole is:

Which brings me to at the moment’s level.

We’ve received time unsuitable.

We people are actually good at worrying about what we will get achieved at the moment, what we ate for ONE meal, what’s essential this week, or how a lot we will change in a month.

From the angle of a 1000 yr previous tree, these time frames are comically brief and insignificant.

If bushes may chortle (just like the Ents of Fangorn Forest), they’d chortle at us.

This realization had me interested by time and easy methods to reframe the timeline on which I take into consideration stuff.

As I talked about in a latest e-newsletter concerning the additive method for habit building, I’m within the technique of constructing a meditation behavior.

And as I used to be studying Jon Kabat-Zinn’s e book Wherever you Go, There You Are, and this quote rattled my mind:

“It could take a while for focus and mindfulness to turn into sturdy sufficient to carry such a variety of objects in consciousness with out getting misplaced in them or hooked up to explicit ones, or just overwhelmed.

For many of us, it takes years and relies upon a very good deal in your motivation and the depth of your apply. So, firstly, you may need to stick with the breath, or use it as an anchor to deliver you again when you’re carried away.

Strive it for a number of years and see what occurs.

That last sentence utterly shifted my expectations.

Up to now, I’d suppose “if I may simply meditate for 30 days straight, THEN I’ll be actually good at mindfulness”

This quote helped me understand I used to be interested by this all unsuitable. I wasn’t going to have some magical epiphany after I reached enlightenment. I wasn’t going to “get there” in weeks or months. As a substitute, the one aim was to put aside time to sit down with my awkward mind and concentrate on my breath. That’s it.

All of the sudden, “attempting it for a number of years” had me interested by this utterly in another way.

Right here’s why that is essential.

Prolong your time horizon

Listed below are two of my favourite quotes about time:

Invoice Gates: “Most individuals overestimate what they will do in a single yr and underestimate what they will do in ten years.”

Daniel Hofstadter: “Hofstadter’s Regulation dictates it’ll all the time take longer than you anticipate, even if you bear in mind Hofstadter’s Regulation.”

Everyone is in such a rush to see what number of weeks or months it’ll take to get in form. Or how lengthy they should go on a weight loss plan to lose the load, after which they will return to “regular consuming.”

Actuality performs out in another way: issues will all the time take longer than we wish, so we should always change how we give it some thought.

As a substitute of “how briskly can I get there,” we ought to be considering “what’s the least quantity of labor I can do at the moment, to assist me be in higher form a yr from now?”

If we alter our time horizon, paradoxically we regularly find yourself making extra progress, extra completely.

If every part takes longer than anticipated, then we should always in all probability decide affordable targets, sustainable routines, and pleasurable actions that we received’t thoughts doing for a for much longer time frame.

We speak about this quite a bit with our coaching clients.

I even made this video quite a few years in the past: “Think in terms of days and years, not weeks and months.

Right here’s one last useful reframing of time horizons:

Every time I’m discovering myself overwhelmed with making a sure determination…I ask myself “Will this matter 6 months from now? A yr from now? A decade from now?” By extending my time horizon, it typically helps me understand that the factor I’m agonizing over doesn’t matter practically as a lot.

What’s one space of your life that you just’re interested by on a brief time period time scale, that will profit from considering on a far longer horizon?

  • A brief time period crash weight loss plan, vs. long run reevaluation of your relationship with meals
  • An unsustainable exercise program vs constructing a each day behavior of motion.
  • Agonizing over small selections that received’t matter a month from now, not to mention a yr from now.

Prolong your timeframe, and see if that adjustments how you consider issues.


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