Lessons learned from real life carry more weight than theory alone.
Theory sounds good and makes sense, but it often falls short of practical application. Reality will teach you the truth whether you like it or not regardless of your ‘theories’. And because of this, I want to base as many of my principles on living off of reality and proven experience.
This one, the Shrink & Expand Principle, is no different. I have seen it work so many times that I had to give it a name and claim its stake as a thing.
By the end of this, you will start to see it everywhere in your life and be able to use it if you’re not already.
Whether intentionally or not, you have fasted past a meal or two at some point.
And what you notice after fasting for a bit is that you get full quicker than had you not fasted. What do I mean? Since you went without food, your stomach organ shrank a bit. And because your ‘hunger satiation sensors’ are connected, they send the signal of full to your brain sooner than had your stomach stayed its normal size. In a very real sense, you have shrunk what it takes to feel full.
There’s power in this to be leveraged. Obviously, the first is that you can fight food cravings and whatnot simply by reducing what it takes to achieve satiation, but this phenomenon applies in many other important areas of your life too.
I’ll give you two more examples so that you can start to see the thread.
“That guy has a short fuse - watch out!”
When we hear the term ‘short fuse’, we immediately understand that it doesn’t take much to upset the person. They have little tolerance and grace for things not going their way. This is where we start to see the power of expansion with the Shrink & Expand Principle. When it comes to the character traits we want to embody, like patience and love, we want to expand our capacity for these. We want to stretch and extend how patient we are, and how loving we can be.
This ‘fuse’ that’s often shorter than we’d like, we can actually do things to lengthen it to our benefit. We can practice being more patient through mindfulness, study of wisdom, and getting grounded in our bodies. We can drop into a deeper state of love with our friends, family, and lovers. We can take our current capacity and make it bigger and steer ourselves away from the short fuse.
The Shrink & Expand Principle gives you an applicable way of judging where you stand in relation to your desired characteristics. And with patience and love, can you ever have too much of that?
There’s a third layer to the principle and it’s the most peculiar.
The fasting example was about shrinking. With the patience and love example, it was about expanding. For this one, it’s about shrinking to expand.
The thing you need to know about focus is that the less you spread it out the better it works. You get more out of it when you work with the nature of focus rather than against it. For instance, multitasking is a myth. In neuroscience, I learned that if you look closely enough at what some may call multitasking, it’s actually rapid context-switching from one thing to the other. Whereas when you hear the word multitasking, you think it means more than one thing at the same time.
That’s not how focus works.
The real way to use focus is to deliberately narrow your attention by cutting out distractions as you go. Through that you’ll heighten your awareness of details otherwise missed and gain a greater sense of depth, i.e. expansion.
These are only 3 examples of the Shrink & Expand Principle. It applies to much more and if you’re like me, it’ll turn out to be a handy tool in the kit. 🔧
Turns out there can be a lot of overlap between building design and building a life. John Ruskin (unknowingly perhaps) tells us how to live life better.
It's never too late to stumble upon an underlying principle of reality. (Especially one that can be put to use immediately)