I was on the phone today with one of our models… Berite and we were talking about her career. See Berite came to the USA from Switzerland to pursue her career and even though she is married her husband needed to stay behind and work…they planned on seeing each other as much as possible. Then 2020 stuck and the world shut down…
She has not seen her husband in 18 months and that got me thinking about time…
The average lifespan in the United States has declined to seventy-six years. The average lifespan was growing longer, most of the extension coming from people quitting smoking. The two trends that were driving down lifespans before the pandemic were opiates and suicide. Neither of my grandfathers didn’t make it to seventy-six. One of my grandmothers made it to ninety-three, the other to about seventy-six. I am increasingly sensitive to time.
“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.” – Seneca.
The total number of days that amount to seventy-six years is 27,740. That’s 3,952 Monday mornings in total. It’s the same number of Sundays. My sensitivity to time and its fleeting nature only continues to increase, as has my realization of how much of it I squandered, believing it was abundant. We perceive time as being abundant because each morning, we are greeted by a rising sun that makes that start of a new day. We have known nothing else.
Seneca’s words counsel us to recognize that we squander our time, confronting us with the idea that the person or thing you are giving your time to may not be significant enough to command your time and energy. He challenges us from his grave (he was believed to be 68 or 69 years old at the time of his death) to determine what we would choose to do if today was our last.
At no point in your life did anyone tell you that you own your life, free and clear, without obligation. No one provided you with the advice to design the life you want, to spend your days doing what brings purpose and meaning into your life, more advice that is not given and rarely taken, when it is. Many are unaware of their birthright.
All You Have Is Time
The truth is that time is all we really have. If everything was taken from you, you would still have time. The most important decision is one we often make without considering the value of the time we are spending. Our experience of time continually reinforces the idea that time is an inexhaustible resource.
The great question each of us must answer is what we will do with the time allotted to us. Your life and mine are made up of what we decide to do with our time. When you spend your time on one thing, you are depriving everything else of that time. We are all trading one thing for another.
Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” The idea Browning was pointing at was that to achieve something worth your time, you should attempt what may be impossible. Much of the time, our grasp exceeds our reach. We tend to major in minor things and minor in major things, getting it exactly the opposite of Stephen Covey’s lesson in living a meaningful life.
There is no more important decision you can make than what you do with your time.
What Are You Willing to Leave Undone?
Seneca was, in some ways, a harsh teacher. He would have us carefully consider what we do with our time. Because you are forced to choose, you must decide how to value your time. Now more than ever, your attention is a commodity with many forces vying for your time, several monetizing your attention and your time, time being a primary metric they believe is proof of their success.
In some ways, it’s easier to decide what you are willing to leave undone at the end of the day. Will you be pleased that you answered all the many emails that filled your inbox? Would you be filled with joy knowing that you complied with some bureaucrat’s request for a form? I cannot disguise my loathing of prosumer, make-work, and box-checking because it “steals my time,” the super-charged words that reveal my hyper-sensitivity to wasted time.
My primary recommendation here is to decide what you are willing to leave undone and leave it undone. The most common mistake we make is believing that we need to do more when improving the quality of our lives, and our work is found in removing that which creates little or no value. That is the only way to free up time for what matters.
It’s Never Too Late
Benjamin Franklin provided the following wisdom regarding life: “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” While I agree with the sentiment, I must disagree with the wise man’s words. Wisdom only finds us late and is mainly earned by acting in unwise ways.
It can never be too late to prioritize the life you want for yourself, regardless of your age or circumstances. Whatever time you have is still your own, and you must choose how to spend what remains of your greatest treasure. What you decide to do between the sun’s rising and its setting is a decision that deserves greater consideration than most give it.
Make sure your priorities for the day include what’s most important to designing the day to ensure it aligns with the life you want.
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