Build Brick by Brick

John Heywood was an English playwright who lived hundreds of years ago.

Today, Heywood is known for his poems, proverbs, and plays. But more than any one work, it’s his phrases that have made him famous. For example, here are some popular sayings that have been attributed to Heywood:

“Out of sight out of mind.”
“Better late than never.”
“The more the merrier.”
“Many hands make light work.”

There is one phrase from Heywood that is particularly interesting when it comes to building better habits:

“Rome was not built in one day.”

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How to Stop Life from Passing You By: the Weird Science of Stretching Time

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One unnerving aspect of getting older is how life seems to start speeding up. Feeling that whoosh as time rushes past you can be disheartening as you wonder where the days, or months, or even years go.

Yet we’re not doomed to march to time’s relentless beat. Your sense of time is weird and pliable — stretching, compressing, coming to a standstill. And you can mold it, to some extent, to move to your own beat.

When you encounter the familiar, time seems to constrict and when you acquire new knowledge, it expands. Neuroscientist David Eagleman explains:

Time is this rubbery thing…. It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, “Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,” it shrinks up.

That relationship between time’s elasticity and whether your brain is processing new information gets at why time seems to turn up the tempo as we age. As the world starts to become more familiar, we learn less and sometimes even seek information and experiences that fit within what we already know. There’s less adventure, play, exploration, creativity, and wonder to invite and engage with newness.

The way you spend your time influences how you perceive it. So the choices you make about what to do now impacts how you’ll manage your time later. Here are two ways to make your days richer and more memorable so that your sense of time expands and life doesn’t pass you by.

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The Lasting Power of Slow Gains

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You’ll never walk into the gym and hear someone say, “You should do something easy today.” But after ten years of training, I think embracing slow and easy gains is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

In fact, this lesson applies to most things in life. It comes down to the difference between progress and achievement.

Let me explain:

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Treat Yourself Like a Role Model

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In December I completed my first 200-hour yoga instructor certification. With New Year’s resolutions in full gear and Q1 initiatives in motion, I’m often reminded of an idea I explored during my certification and has guided me since, in both my personal life and in all of my work at Zirtual.

The idea is simple yet stunningly important: You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Our society has an intense quest for productivity and endless improvement. We look at our past with a dissecting eye and zoom in on what we didn’t accomplish. We set goals and record what we did, day in and day out.

But how do we use this data? Is it to celebrate each accomplishment? Hardly! We usually use what we have done to highlight what we haven’t, and everything starts to center around what’s next. “Tomorrow I’ll get through this,” we say. Or “next quarter I’m finally going to tackle that.”

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Understanding How to Function at Your Best: defining positive psychology

Here at iDoneThis, we often talk about how principles of positive psychology can be used to improve our well-being and happiness at work. We wanted to go back to basics and get an expert to explain what positive psychology is and how it can help you live your life better. So we spoke with Dr. Stephen Schueller about defining positive psychology and what progress and timing have to do with living a good life.

imageDr. Schueller is a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and member of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies, where he works on developing internet and mobile interventions in behavioral and mental health service delivery. (This is the first installment of our interview. Head here for the second, 5 Reasons You Don’t Do What Really Makes You Happy).

Initially I think I misunderstood positive psychology as being all about positive thinking and positive emotions — and that’s really not what it’s about.

That’s definitely true. One of the things I really try to differentiate positive psychology from is this positive thinking movement, things like reading The Secret — where you think it, you’ll get it, or think positively and your life will be better. That’s not what positive psychology is about at all.

Lots of research shows that experiencing positive emotions is very beneficial, but that’s not really the point in positive psychology. Positive psychology is a movement focusing on trying to understand what optimal functioning means.

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Connecting The Dots In Your Life

Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you to another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours – long hallways and unforeseen stairwells – eventually puts you in the place you are now.

— Ann Patchett, What Now?

A little bit of reflection and connecting the dots can lead to insight, an honest overview of where you are, and perhaps, a clearer picture of where you’re headed!

How To Measure Success

First, the seed being sown falls on good ground, but the birds get it. Then it falls on shallow ground and can’t grow. Then on thorny ground, where it withers away. And only with the last attempt it falls on good ground and the seeds grow.
So we must shift our focus. We don’t want to look for which seeds thrive and which don’t. We want to know what the rate of success is.

Buffer’s Leo Widrich describes Jim Rohm’s law of averages in explaining his approach to measuring success.

Great things are not accomplished with a silver bullet shot of optimism but require work and a kind of faith that is informed by reality.

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Image: Sergiu Bacioiu