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Prompted: The Long and Short ⏳
Our perspective of time impacts the way we live our lives.
Hi there - I hope you’re enjoying your Sunday afternoon!
This week’s newsletter investigates the idea that life is both short and long. The more I look, the more I notice similar balances or dichotomies in other areas of life as well. If you’ve seen any similar ideas yourself, let me know and I’d love to look into them!
As always, thanks for reading.
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Some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit.
Life is long and you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.
- Chris Rock
The Long & Short
The average lifespan in the US is 78 years.
That's 28,470 days, 4056 weeks, and 936 months.
Frequently life seems too short. We don't have enough time to spend time with friends, finish projects, or pick up new hobbies. Yet, we build careers and families, travel across the world, and if we're lucky, leave a lasting positive impact behind.
Each week we have more than 100 waking hours to allocate to whatever we'd like, but somehow they always seem to slip away. Despite how impactful the present feels now if we consider 1 week on the scale of the next 10 years, it becomes almost irrelevant.
So which is it? Is life short or long?
If we put aside what is "right" we can see that it's both. Time flies by right in front of us, but when we zoom out to a longer time horizon everything seems to be moving in slow motion. It's like watching an airplane fly overhead. From the ground, it seems to be moving slowly on a well-defined path, but from inside the plane, everything is rushing by at 500 miles per hour.
Our perspective changes our perception of time.
When we're focused on the next few days or weeks things can seem hectic and rushed, but thinking about the next 10-20 years can make today's challenges and deadlines seem trivial.
One prevailing mindset about our time on Earth is that life is short so we should live every day like it's our last (YOLO). We hear stories of folks on their deathbed full of regret and it scares us into trying to live every day to the fullest. We develop a fear that we're not doing enough and try to do as much as we can.
Another emerging mindset about life, categorized by author Cal Newport as Slow Productivity, focuses on the idea of slowing down, ignoring the pull to make every day meaningful, and expanding time horizons from days and weeks to years and decades. The contents of each day become secondary to what's accomplished over a few years.
Facing the dichotomy of these radically different ways to think about life it's challenging to make meaning of anything. Something that's imperative today is insignificant in 10 years, but without anything important for 10 years, a decade is wasted.
A potential remedy to this problem lies in the middle ground. The right combination of urgency and long-term thinking will be different for all of us, but expanding our time horizon while maintaining a sense of urgency can provide a useful framework to live a meaningful and productive life.
Balancing the urge to do what makes us happy accepting a “wasted” day requires intention and awareness, but it can provide us with a newfound confidence that we're living a worthwhile life.
What can I do on a weekly or monthly basis that will positively impact my life 10 years from now?
How often do I think about how my daily and weekly activities contribute to the next decade of my life? Do I need to do this more or less?
What is something I’ve been worrying about that will become completely trivial in one month?
Slow Productivity - Cal Newport
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.
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