“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control and abandoning what lies in yours.”-Seneca: On The Shortness of Life; Life is Long if you Know How to Use It
“Lost time is never found again.”-Benjamin Franklin
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”-Mark Twain
86,400. That is the number of seconds we are given each day. No more. No less. When you think of it in these ways, time is truly our most precious and finite commodity. We can’t expand that account, we can’t borrow some from yesterday or tomorrow. There is no way to know how many days, and therefore how many of these seconds, we truly will be given to us in our lifetime. That is impossible to predict (even for those fantasy football analysts who always seem to have a crystal ball…HA!). We can’t shave some from today, put into a retirement account or savings account in order to have more at a certain age or on a day we really want to have more. It just doesn’t work that way.
We should awake each day with the knowledge that the seconds we have are limited. We need to realize that we can never get this day back, it can never be re-lived (even though Groundhog Day the movie with Bill Murray shows otherwise-what a great flick by the way). We also can’t guard our seconds. Trying to hold on them doesn’t stop time from flowing. So what must we do? We must be cognizant of the passing of time. We cannot let the minutes flutter by without attempting to enrich them, for ourselves, for others.
If we simply take the time to realize that we will never get our seconds back, we will discover more deeply how important our time is. We would probably not waste so much of it. I am not saying we need to be working gung-ho all the time, but we just need to realize our time on this Earth is not infinite. When we come to realize that time is moving forward, we can actually make the clock’s ticks more meaningful. When we keep our mortality in the back of our minds, we can take in the beauty around us more fully. We can do more with the seconds we are given. Even if some of those seconds are spent watching SpongeBob, we can at least acknowledge that we won’t be in that very spot with that exact time ever again and when we look at it that way even Patrick or Squidward can be looked at as beautiful.
The flip side (there is ALWAYS a flip side) is that we can’t try to squeeze as much as we can into the seconds either. “Enriching” doesn’t always equate to “more.” Make every second count, but don’t try to put as much as we can into them either. There is an amazing book: Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. In it he sums up a ton of interviews he did with some of the most influencial, inspiring and successful people on the planet. The book is broken down into three categories: Wealth, Health and Wisdom (though they all intermingle). It’s great because they are all bite-sized chapters. He takes some of the best gems from each interview and puts them on paper. Easy to read, gets the mojo going and tons of information to learn. It only takes a few minutes to read each chapter but they definitely make those minutes more impactful. The flip side (again….there is always a flipside) is I found myself getting overwhelmed by all the amazing things I can try, do, read, watch, etc to improve my own time on this Earth. There is a plethora of information and activities and knowledge that I can apply (and I found myself thinking “should” rather than “can” as far as the application goes). It can be daunting. I only have ——— many seconds left in my life, how can I do all of these things?! I found myself wanting to read, experience and learn them all by next Tuesday…. that is not using the time I have on this planet to the fullest.
Again, we can slow time in a way by enriching our seconds. Do one thing now that will help improve your life for how ever many seconds we have left. Also realize that we don’t need to try to unicycle, juggle, flambe, meditate, orate and brush our teeth at the same time. That would actually get quite messy. Know that we have a limited span in life, and own that fact. Work to make each second count (for the sake of that second), and don’t try to fill the seconds up with as many things as we possibly can. I’m sure you’ve heard of the stones in a jar exercise. But even so, here it is in a nutshell: Say you have a glass, and beside it you have some larger stones, some pebbles, and some sand. If you wanted “to get as much in as possible” you could start with the sand and fill it up, them move to the pebbles, and then the rocks. Except, there wouldn’t be much room for the rocks. If you start with the rocks, and then the pebbles and then sand, the sand can fill in the cracks. The point is start with the biggest things first. What can you do with your seconds today so that by doing them your day, week, month, life is that much better. You can always add in the small grains of sand later. Define your rocks, focus on those today (and everyday) and your seconds will add up to a much more meaningful existence.
So let’s find our big rocks, focus on the moment, and enrich our lives by owning our mortality.
Thanks!-Joel Lindeman D.C.