Time is relative —
and who better to know that than Albert Einstein, who said,
“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”
This concept affects us in virtually everything we do.
You need an unpleasant medical procedure, like a root canal. An appointment is scheduled a few weeks out. So, why is it that the days prior to the appointment fly by; yet, once you’re firmly planted in the chair, the minutes can’t move fast enough?
Your dream vacation, 14 days in a tropical paradise, is approaching in two weeks. Waiting to get on the plane takes “forever.” However, once you land, you know those exact same 14 days will shoot by at light-speed.
This fluidity boils down to a simple, twisted fact:
The more we want something, the longer it takes to get here and the faster it zips by. As a corollary, the more we want to avoid something, the quicker it shows up and the longer it remains.
Referencing the previous examples, since I really, really want to be in Hawaii, the wait-time to experience it is long-drawn-out. Yet, in a cruel twist of fate, since I don’t want to leave once I’m there, the time on vacation dissipates very quickly.
On the other hand, because I would do virtually anything to avoid being subjected to a dental drill, that appointment approaches more rapidly. However, since I so want to bolt from the dental chair, the period in which it holds me hostage slows to a crawl.
The concept of time’s flexibility is not new.
Though understanding it can make a significant impact on how to change one’s habits.
First, we need to recognize that willpower is not the power to say, “I won’t.” It’s the ability to say, “I won’t… for the next ten minutes.” Although that alteration appears minor, there is considerable control applied by appending the standard definition, since I might not believe I can resist “for a long time,” but could accept the fact that a few minutes is doable.
I can go hours between lunch and dinner without a single thought of food, but while trying to wait those ten minutes to avoid a late night snack, I feel like I am waiting an eternity. The result of this seemingly elongated time frame causes me to fuss and fidget like a small child impatient to open the birthday presents sitting on the table before him. As I pointed out, the more we want something, and the longer it feels we are forced to delay it, the more anxious we become. The result — at least in the case of trying to change a habit — is the likelihood that we will “give up” and revert to old patterns.
We either change the level of desire, or alter our view of time, compressing it from “then” to “now” and letting go of what’s to come. In so doing, agitation is reduced, and — who knows? — we might even enjoy the moment.
Whether sitting on a beach in Hawaii or resisting the urge to devour a late-night snack, living in the now is really the only option we have.