27 Life Ideas From A 27 Year Old: #4 Power Of 5 Minutes
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There’s a general misconception that starting out small has no significance. Everyone is impressed by someone who could, let’s say, hold a breath for seven minutes straight. That’s very unusual, difficult, abnormal thing to do. Yet, the mass assumes the person naturally can do that. We are so focused on the extraordinary result that is presented in front of us that we forget to take a moment to think of what process he or she must have undergone to reach that point.
Actually, the whole world is wired to look at the result and not process. The key point here is to shift perspective.
David Blaine, the ultra-famous illusionist and endurance artist who has gone on to freeze himeself for over 64 hours, stand on a pole for 35 hours and go on a 44-day wet fast, had braces on his legs in early part of his life. When he had to compete in swimming when he was five, he developed a way in free style to hold his breath longer so that he could cover more ground with his legs in such condition. What happened next was a cumulative process of endurance training over several years to to reach a stage where he mounted a public challenge on the world record of holding the breath for nine minutes. He couldn’t but he did best his own record.
What you see, time and again, is a staggering obvious pattern; every person who ends up being a high performer starts out with the minimum effective dose and then increases the dose to just above that comfort zone. For instance, a beginner who is learning drumming, would first learn one-two-one-two paradiddle at 65bps (beats per second). The teacher would then increment that by 5bps after every five minutes of deliberate, mindful practice. By end of the week, the student will have mastered the single basic paradiddle stroke in a wide spectrum of timings. The teacher would then repeat the whole system for one-one-two-two. A year of paradiddle will then form the basics for everything from tom rolls, blast beats, double bass and grove hi-hat drumming.
That’s where I bring the idea of five minutes. All you need is five minutes to start anything. You want to start a journal? Write a journal for five minutes. Want to start meditating? Do it for five minutes. Want to start exercising? Do it for five minutes. Want to run a marathon? Run for five minutes first. If you manage to keep the schedule for a week, increase that with another five on the next. By the end of the month you will be doing 20 minutes of writing, meditating, exercising or running. That’s a significant percentage increase from a grand total of 0 minutes.
The process allows you to overcome two critical aspects to any project; avoid overstretching by doing the bare minimum and gain momentum by continuing to do the bare minimum. Once you trust yourself that you can continue, increase the number to a point where you think you can realistically do it. By just continuing on the path of incremental minimal work, you will be able to then shift focus more on the process than outcome.
The idea of five minutes does not necessarily mean that you have to stick to five minutes. The key point here is to start small, a place where you feel you have control and where it does not make a big change in current routine you have. Beginning an all salad diet from the new year might seem like a good idea for losing weight but a better way would be take one meal at a time. During the first month, try cutting down on the lunch portion by half and by end of February, change lunch to salad. Then move progressively to cut down the portion of dinner and then move into full salads when appropriate.
This is not a new concept, yet, people generally underestimate the power of a technique what I like to call chunking. A technique where you take a big goal then chop down into small, minute attainable pieces spread around a long period of time. Two key "feel-good" hormones keeps you going if you attain a piece one after the other; Dopamine, which is released after a chunk is attained and Serotonin, when other people slowly see change in you through the progress. You are effectively multiplying the number of times the brain releases these hormones as opposed to that one time when you take the direct route. This is also why most people give up early on as they make sudden drastic changes in their lives and cannot attain the desired result in short period of time. The "feel-good" hormone's release is delayed and the incentive to continue is diminished.
Chunking, however, does just the opposite. It allows people to make small, negligible changes in their daily routines and habits, attain those small chunks of goals and eventually make progress towards where they want to be while providing those short bursts of Dopamine and Serotonin on the way.
It’s simple. It’s practical. And it actually works.