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I Watched an Artist Create Stained Glass and Learned an Important Lesson About Life

I Watched an Artist Create Stained Glass and Learned an Important Lesson About Life

Until recently, I had never been inside a stained glass studio. Next thing you know, without any planning at all, I found myself inside two different studios over the span of three days. Strange how life works.

I assumed that I would see some nicely colored windows or something similar, but that would be it. Little did I know, I was about to learn an important life lesson.

During a conversation with one of the artists, I was told about a strategy used to cut glass and immediately realized that this same idea applies to habits, self-improvement…and almost everything else.

Here’s what the artist told me.

Lessons Learned from Stained Glass

Stained glass artists create different designs by making cuts on the glass to “score” it and then breaking off the pattern or shape that they want to use in the finished product. (In other words, they make a notch in the glass and then break the pieces apart like you would with a Kit Kat bar.)

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The most difficult cut in stained glass is called an inside cut. Basically, it’s a curved line where you throw away the part inside of the curve. The problem with inside cuts is that the edges of the curve tend to chip when the pieces of scored glass are broken apart. The image below shows what I mean.

    As the artist talked about inside cuts, he said, “The glass will shatter if you try to cut too much off at once. The best way to do an inside cut is to slice off smaller curves piece-by-piece. In fact, it’s not just the best way to do it, it’s the only way to do it.”

    So, you start by slicing a shallow curve and breaking a small piece off. Then you cut a slightly deeper curve and break that off. And so on and so forth, until you have your full inside cut. The image below shows the strategy.

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    stained-glass-inside-cut-success

      By slowly cutting deeper and deeper curves, the artist prevents the glass from chipping and breaking as it changes shape.

      Inside Cuts in Everyday Life

      Changing your behavior, building new habits, and learning new skills is a lot like making an inside cut on a piece of glass.

      If you want, you can try to make a big change and cut the entire piece at once. We convince ourselves that we can do this all the time. We’ll commit to transforming our diet overnight, get inspired to launch a business in a weekend, or we finally get motivated to work out…and push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion.

      If our life is like the piece of glass, we try to change the entire shape of it all at once.

      Why? Because it’s so easy to focus on achievements instead of progress. We tend to get obsessed with our goals rather than focusing on our system.

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      I don’t know about you, but I’ve made this mistake tons of times myself. I’ll get excited and motivated and jump into a project or chase a goal with everything I have, but pretty soon the pieces begin to break and I have to start over.

      Approach Change Like a Stained Glass Artist

      The alternative is to approach your goals and dreams like a stained glass artist.

      You can choose to make slow, methodical gains. Start with a small, unimpressive cut — something you can easily handle — and do it well. Then, repeat with a slightly bigger step. And again. And again.

      This process is like starting with something that is so easy that you can’t say no. And then focusing on improving by one percent each time. And then committing to doing more repetitions.

      Of course, change isn’t easy — no matter how you do it. Slow gains are boring. Certainly not sexy. Nobody writes news stories about them. But moving forward in a slow and methodical manner doesn’t mean you lack ambition, drive, or vision. The stained glass artist has a very clear vision. He knows exactly what he is working toward.

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      You and I can do the same. If we keep making small improvements, then pretty soon we will end up with a beautiful masterpiece on our hands instead of a bunch of fragments.

      James Clear writes at JamesClear.com, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.

      This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

      Featured photo credit: Steve Snodgrass via flickr.com

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      James Clear

      James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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      Last Updated on September 28, 2020

      How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

      How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

      The brain is a tangled web of information. We don’t remember single facts, but instead we interlink everything by association. Anytime we experience a new event, our brains tie the sights, smells, sounds and our own impressions together into a new relationship.

      Our brain remembers things by repetition, association, visual imagery, and all five senses. By knowing a bit about how the brain works, we can become better learners, absorbing new information faster than ever.

      Here are some study tips to help get you started:

      1. Use Flashcards

      Our brains create engrained memories through repetition. The more times we hear, see, or repeat something to ourselves, the more likely we are to remember it.

      Flashcards can help you learn new subjects quickly and efficiently. Flashcards allow you to study anywhere at any time. Their portable nature lends them to quick study sessions on the bus, in traffic, at lunch, or in the doctor’s office. You can always whip out your flashcards for a quick 2 to 3 minute study session.

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      To create effective flashcards, you need to put one point on each flashcard. Don’t load up the entire card with information. That’s just overload. Instead, you should dedicate one concept to each card.

      One of the best ways to make flashcards is to put 1 question on the front and one answer on the back. This way, you can repeatedly quiz yourself into you have mastered any topic of your choice.

      Commit to reading through your flash cards at least 3 times a day and you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up new information.

      As Tony Robbins says,

      “Repetition is the mother of skill”.

      2. Create the Right Environment

      Often times, where you study can be just as important as how you study. For an optimum learning environment, you’ll want to find a nice spot that is fairly peaceful. Some people can’t stand a deafening silence, but you certainly don’t want to study near constant distractions.

      Find a spot that you can call your own, with plenty of room to spread out your stuff. Go there each time you study and you will find yourself adapting to a productive study schedule. When you study in the same place each time, you become more productive in that spot because you associate it with studying.

      3. Use Acronyms to Remember Information

      In your quest for knowledge, you may have once heard of an odd term called “mnemonics”. However, even if you haven’t heard of this word, you have certainly heard of its many applications. One of the most popular mnemonic examples is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. This is an acronym used to help musicians and students to remember the notes on a treble clef stave.

      An acronym is simply an abbreviation formed using the intial letters of a word. These types of memory aids can help you to learn large quantities of information in a short period of time.

      4. Listen to Music

      Research has long shown that certain types of music help you to recall information. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be remembered simply by “playing” the songs mentally in your head.

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      5. Rewrite Your Notes

      This can be done by hand or on the computer. However, you should keep in mind that writing by hand can often stimulate more neural activity than when writing on the computer.

      Everyone should study their notes at home but often times, simply re-reading them is too passive. Re-reading your notes can cause you to become disengaged and distracted.

      To get the most out of your study time, make sure that it is active. Rewriting your notes turns a passive study time into an active and engaging learning tool. You can begin using this technique by buying two notebooks for each of your classes. Dedicate one of the notebooks for making notes during each class. Dedicate the other notebook to rewriting your notes outside of class.

      6. Engage Your Emotions

      Emotions play a very important part in your memory. Think about it. The last time you went to a party, which people did you remember? The lady who made you laugh, the man who hurt your feelings, and the kid who went screaming through the halls are the ones you will remember. They are the ones who had an emotional impact.

      Fortunately, you can use the power of emotion in your own study sessions. Enhance your memory by using your five senses. Don’t just memorize facts. Don’t just see and hear the words in your mind. Create a vivid visual picture of what you are trying to learn.

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      For example, if you are trying to learn the many parts of a human cell, begin physically rotating the cell in your minds eye. Imagine what each part might feel like. Begin to take the cell apart piece by piece and then reconstruct it. Paint the human cell with vivid colors. Enlarge the cell in your mind’s eye so that it is now six feet tall and putting on your own personal comedy show. This visual and emotional mind play will help deeply encode information into your memory.

      7. Make Associations

      One of the best ways to learn new things is to relate what you want to learn with something you already know. This is known as association, and it is the mental glue that drives your brain.

      Have you ever listened to a song and been flooded by memories that were connected to it? Have you ever seen an old friend that triggered memories from childhood? This is the power of association.

      To maximize our mental powers, we must constantly be looking for ways to relate new information with old ideas and concepts that we are already familiar with.

      You can do this with the use of mindmapping. A mind map is used to diagram words, pictures, thoughts, and ideas into a an interconnected web of information. This simple practice will help you to connect everything you learn into a global network of knowledge that can be pulled from at any moment.

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      Learn more about mindmapping here: How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

      Featured photo credit: Alissa De Leva via unsplash.com

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