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2-Min 2uesday: Point A 2PointBe in 2:00..... Two-Minute Warning

Two minutes can be a breath.

Two minutes can last a lifetime.

Often the velocity of those two minutes depends on which side of the score you're on. If you're in the lead, and you desperately want the clock to run out so your opponent can't catch up, those two minutes are measured in Ice Ages or childhood lectures when you were in trouble. If you're behind on the scoreboard, and you need every opportunity to have a come-from-behind victory, the clock runs something akin to the Bullet Train or your week's vacation at the beach.

We're now in the middle of the NFL playoffs. This is the time of year when we hear a lot of football talk when non-fans, casual fans meet the die-hards. And when we all see that something magical happens with two minutes to go in the first half or at the end of the game. In the NFL, these two minutes rise to mythological proportions of importance. I mean, why a "Two Minute Warning" and not, say, three minutes or one minute? It's as if the NFL is announcing to all of us, "Hey folks, a LOT can happen in just two minutes...but WARNING: the game is about to end!"

The energy level in a stadium changes dramatically at the Two Minute Warning. It's as if 2:01 and 1:59 are on opposite sides of a portal. The pressure changes. I mean that quite literally. If you have ever been in a stadium of a close game at the Two Minute Warning, you feel things change.

Two minutes can be a breath.

Two minutes can last a lifetime.

Games are won or lost. Heroes are made, hearts are broken. Every second matters. Each play's result is heightened. Time becomes elastic, shrinking or accelerating, sometimes from one play to the next.

All in the span of two minutes.

So they give us a Two Minute Warning.

I've been thinking a great deal about the power of two minutes.

Like many of you, I've been identifying areas of my life in which I want to improve. Opportunities to work on. I have shared before (and will continue to do so) that I am a Recovering Cynic, so I often examine my cynical tendencies, and the variables that seem to be present when I feel the seductive pull of Cynicism. One of those growth opportunities revealed is how I compulsively go down rabbit holes on my phone. News alerts. Sports scores. Social media posts. Likes. Dislikes. Videos. Dark matter disguised as threads of conversation. Ideally, l'd love to eliminate this compulsive behavior, but for right now, I'm striving to simply reduce it.

So I decided to think like a social scientist, and I conducted an experiment.

I decided that, for one week, I would set the timer on my phone for two minutes. Just two minutes. And I allowed myself to go wherever I wanted to go, read whatever posts, threads, scan whatever headlines or whatever. I would scroll, read, watch, post, like, "heart"....for two minutes, until the timer went off. THEN, I would write down in a stream-of-consciousness way what I thought or felt, as rigorusly honestly as I could. I did this for a week, one time per day.

Here's a pretty consistent sampling of what I thought and felt after just two minutes of looking at news sites, social media, videos, etc:

  • SMH

  • Disappointed

  • Judgmental

  • I don't get to go on vacations like that?

  • Look how in love they are

  • I feel envious

  • How can people think like that?!

  • I'm not enough of this

  • I'm too much of that

  • I can feel my blood pressure rising

When I look at the guy who has that thread of thoughts and feelings, I confess I'm not sure I want to hang out with that guy very much. He seems unpleasant and a bit toxic.

Now, in that same week, I also had another component to this study which could never get published in any scientific journal of any worth. At least one time during the day when I compulsively reached for my phone, I would stop myself, and pull up one of the apps I have available to me: Audible, Spotify, Insight Timer, etc. And instead of scrolling in the above-mentioned way, I would set the timer for two minutes and either meditate for two minutes, listen to Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, or sounds of nature; I could watch two minutes of a video about an archaeological dig, or read two minutes worth of information about nutrition or how to get the most out of my workouts. It's funny: it's the same technology I want to get away from, but the truth is, it's not my phone; the problem has been the places I tend to go on my phone. For these two minutes each day, I was now choosing to use this technology as my ally, not my enemy.

And THEN I jotted down how I felt. The patterns:

  • Calm

  • I feel like I learned something

  • Hopeful

  • At ease

  • Content

That's a guy I can be friends with.

During this experiment, Time was just as elastic as described above in football games. When I allowed myself to go down rabbit holes, I felt like I was chasing time. As if part of my stress was actually trying to chase the seconds because they were slipping away. Conversely, in the other two-minute blocks, I actually felt time slow down. It became even more powerful.

Time changes us.

And ironically it happens fast.

Research shows that repetitive, compulsive behaviors cut grooves in our thought patterns. Makes it kinda tough to get out of a rut when each repetitive motion digs the rut even deeper. The more negative I am, the more negative I'm likely to become. The more worried I am, the more anxious I'm likely to become. The more Judgey McJudgerson I am, the more judgmental I am likely to become.

The good news is that it works the other way, too.

The more I seek Unintended Positives in rough situations, the more they appear. The more I choose to go for a three-mile walk, the more I become the guy who always takes three-mile walks. The more I stop, pause, breathe and become aware of my emotions and thoughts, the more I become a so-called mindful person.

In as little as two minutes, we can begin to cut new pathways. Those same two minutes invested (not spent) differently, consistently, repeatedly can generate a healthy shake of reward chemicals in our brains. Behaving differently begets thinking differently; and then thinking differently begets behaving differently.

So try it -- and you don't even need a weeklong experiment. And you don't even have to write anything down (though I highly recommend it). Just do an old fashioned Taste Test like they used to do in the commercials. Take two minutes going through social media, news and all the videos you want. Then take two minutes going through a meditation, or a book, or begin to learn something you're curious about. Just two minutes each. And just compare how you feel. Compare your energy level. Ask yourself, do you feel your mind or spirit expanding or contracting? Without judging yourself (or others!) just observe and see what happens.

Two minutes is an incredibly powerful amount of time. Just ask the NFL.

Is it a two-minute warning?

Or a two-minute gift you give to yourself?

Two minutes can be a breath.

Two minutes can last a lifetime.

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