Why break seemed so short and this week seems so long

Strictly speaking, it’s because of how you perceive time.

Let’s start with a snippet from my favorite podcast, On Being. This is Krista Tippett’s interview with Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, which I’ve edited for clarity:

Ms. Krista Tippett: You write in an interesting way about our perception of time.

Dr. Ellen Langer: Our beliefs are not inconsequential. It’s not that they matter a little — it’s that they’re almost the only thing that does matter. That’s a very extreme statement. So if you ask, “What matters, real or perceived time?” To me, it would be perceived time.

So let’s say we have you in a sleep study: you go to sleep, you wake up, and you see the clock. For a third of the people the clock is running twice as fast as normal. For another third the clock is slowed down. For the last third, it’s accurate. So what that means is that upon waking, a third of the people will think they got, let’s say, two hours more sleep than they got, two hours fewer sleep than they got, or the amount of sleep that they actually got. And the question is, when you’re then given biological and cognitive psychological tasks, do these tasks reflect real or perceived time? And, clearly, I believe that when you wake up in the morning, and you think that you had a good night’s sleep, you’re ready to go, regardless of how much sleep you actually had — up until a point, of course.”

So here’s the real question: what do you believe that’s causing this week to feel so long? Here are some possibilities:

“I believe school is supposed to be dreadfully boring and difficult.”

“I believe I’ll never use what I’m learning here.”

“I believe break is more enjoyable than school.”

I can’t blame you for having these beliefs after spending 18 years in grade school, but it’s important to point out that none of these beliefs need to be true. They can be, or not, depending on what you believe in that moment.

I’ll leave you with two ideas. The first is from my interview with Fredonia’s President, Ginny Horvath, and the second is a common quote often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi:

“So some of the marketability of a bachelor’s degree depends on people having an attitude that they’re becoming as smart as they can be. Not, “I’m going to take the requirements, and then I’ll have the degree that entitles me to a job,” but more, “I really want to work to be as smart as I can be.” Even if you’re never going to be a sociologist, you take sociology because you’re going to learn about society. You’re going to learn about those issues that you have to use in the workplace to understand social groups. Why take math if you’re never going to be a math teacher or an accountant? Because you’re training that part of your mind that can do quantitative reasoning. What job doesn’t depend on understanding data and statistics? A person who really goes into our CCC (College Core Curriculum) courses with the right attitude, thinking of it as developing different parts of the brain, is getting ready to do anything.”

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

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