I have been auditing Wesleyan University's "How to Change The World" via Coursera and was recently struck with the fact that perhaps the largest reason very little is getting done about global warming is the nature of the human brain and the difficulty most of us have with long-term thinking. Wesleyan President Michael Roth, the course instructor, related human weakness to delayed gratification to the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, pointing to this functionality of our brains as one reason we are on course to literally destroying the world for our grand kids.
Regardless of whether you believe global warming is real or not, you really should believe that small things over a period time can do amazing and great things - what I want to call TTOT (Tiny Things Over Time). From investing 10% of your income into an IRA account early in life to the formation of the grand canyon, to the habit of brushing your teeth, the examples of this fact are legion. And yet, we still don't DO anything to harness this - at least most of us don't.
I am currently reading "The one Thing" by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in which they make a compelling argument to simplify your vision and purpose and do small things to leverage maximum results. "You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects." In the beginning of the book the authors share the powerful analogy of how a domino can knock over another one 1.5 times its size (see YouTube video below). Lots of cool stuff with that idea in relation to TTOT.
Recently I finished Small Move, Big Change which also goes into great detail about the impact that small and simple actions can have on ones life satisfaction. We humans are not long-term thinkers, and it takes too much of our decision power and energy to constantly make big commitments to things that require us to see the results of our actions in the long term. So how can I create for myself simplified, actionable, daily tasks that will help me feel gratified while also helping me prepare for the unforeseen and long-term future?
In his TEDx Talk in Bloomington, Shawn Anchor shares the "Happiness Advantage" that comes from:
The Positive Psychology movement, and the idea of doing the scientifically proven tasks above on a daily basis is a perfect example of TTOT. A tenant of the human condition (and the Declaration of Independence) is seeking happiness. Because of our inability to ponder the long term impact of our decisions now, many people do simply idiotic things in the hopes it will give them joy. Pornography, overworking at the office, media addiction, food, substance abuse, and others are all examples of surrogates, taking the place of actionable and proven tasks that will -in the long run- produce some true degree of happiness.
Said a dramatic and thoughtful sage from Jerusalem, "Most people don't believe something can happen until it already has. That's not stupidity or weakness, that's just human nature." Whether it was meant as a statement on global warming, TTOT tasks for daily happiness, or a zombie apocalypse I really don't think it matters because it is true.
In counseling his son, a prophet from the Book of Mormon stated, "Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." So there you go, TTOT is not only sponsored by Brad Pitt and the Mormon Church, but it is the driving principal of at least two bestselling business books, the result of thousands of hours of positive psychology research, and the subject of a major Massively Open Online Course!
What does it matter to you and me? Well, what Tiny Things Over Time are you doing? Where will those things lead you? What will you consequences might occur in your life and those around you because of active choices you make to influence your TTOT points?
I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.