In the blink of an eye, things are happening all around us. Every second the heart pumps 6.283 liters of blood, a bee flaps its wings 270 times, a snail travels 1.3 cm, 4.3 babies are born and nearly 2 people die.
As life happens all around us, we often forget how precious time is. We believe there’s a lot of time left. In reality, you have less time left than you think. Let’s explore this a bit further.
According to the United Nations, the average global life expectancy is 72.6 years old. Assuming I’m average, it means that I have already surpassed my halfway point, leaving me with about 33 years left on this planet. That might sound like a lot of time left. But what if we looked at our lives from a different perspective?
As humans, we’re constantly pursuing happiness and joy.
From that angle, we can calculate our lives based on activities that bring us joy. For me that means:
Decorating Christmas Trees: I love the holidays. Thirty-three years left means that I’ll have about 33 more Christmas Trees in my lifetime to decorate.
Reading Books: I read about 12 books a year. So over the remaining 33 years of my life, I’ll have to select which of the 396 books in the world I want to read because that’s all I’ll have time for.
Eating Waffles: One of my favorite food items in the world are waffles topped with strawberries and whipped cream. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the healthiest things in the world so I eat it maybe once every four months. That’s about 99 more waffles in my lifetime.
Looking at life from this perspective makes me realize that I better be selective and enjoy each of these moments! But if we dig further, the decorating Christmas trees, reading books, eating waffles are all things that occur consistently year over year.
So what if we look at calculating our life based on things that fluctuate, like spending time with loved ones?
Not only does this time fluctuate, but there’s an added variable: the age and life span of your loved one.
For example, my parents are in their 70’s already. I’m pretty lucky to still have both of them with me. Assuming my parents are super humans and live until their 90, I’d have about 20 years left with each of them. I’m physically with them about two weeks each year. That equates to 280 days (20 years * 14 days) remaining that I’ll get to spend with my parents.
If we dig a little deeper, between birth and age 18 (prior to college), I used to spend a part of each day with my parents for at least 95% of the year (or 347 days out of the year). If we did the math, the 280 days left with my parents really only represents the last 5% of the total time I’ll have with them over my entire lifetime. I better treasure this last bit of time with them.
If you’re a parent and we assume a similar story will hold true for you and your children, the reality is that the majority of your time with your children is now while they’re young. When they grow up, they’ll leave the house and your time with them will dwindle from nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to a few days a year.
Time is the most precious resource we have.
We often think there’s plenty of time left. We put things off for tomorrow. We think we can just wait. We aren’t fully present when we’re with loved ones.
The truth is: Time is finite and scarce. No matter how much money you have, you cannot buy time, sell time, save time or trade time. You get each moment ONCE (even this very moment that you’re reading these words). When that moment is gone, it’s gone forever.
From this perspective: What are you willing to do to protect this valuable asset?
Here are a few things you can do to protect your time.
Tip #1: Learn to say no.
We’re often saying yes to everything, even when we don’t really want to. Even when that ‘thing’ doesn’t bring us joy. It might be because of a fear of missing out, perhaps a desire to say “I finished it” (i.e., when you read a bad book, but still keep reading it so you can finish it), or the guilt of saying “no”. And each time you say yes to something, it means you’re saying no to something else. There’s a cost to each “yes” and the cost is your time.
- What am I saying yes to now that doesn’t bring me joy?
- By saying yes, what am I saying no to?
- How might I put myself on a “no” diet to practice saying “no” to things that don’t truly light me up?
Tip #2: Learn to say yes.
On the flip side of saying no, is learning to say yes to all the things we often say no to. It might be learning to say yes to prioritizing yourself before others. Or perhaps learning to say yes to pursuing something that feels scary, but that you deeply yearn for.
Oftentimes, we live life based on expectations of others. We say yes to everyone else’s expectations and lose a sense of what really matters to ourselves. We put our dreams and desires aside believing we have time to do it ‘later’. Waiting for later is the biggest thief of your time. So start saying yes to what truly matters to you.
- What have I always wanted to do, but have been afraid to try?
- What’s the cost of waiting or perhaps never saying yes to this thing?
- What’s one small step I can take today to start dabbling into this pursuit?
Tip #3: Create boundaries with those who drain you.
You’re the average of the people you surround yourself with. This can even be the person you constantly check on social media. It’s not important to always be surrounded by a lot of people. What matters is the type of people. It’ll have an impact on how you feel about yourself, what you do or don’t do, and how you show up in your life.
Be relentless in surrounding yourself with people who will bring out the best in you and have the courage to tell you like it is. Ones who will celebrate your successes and lift you up, tolerate your shortcomings, and walk in when everyone else is walking out. And set boundaries with those who drain you of energy and time.
- Who in my life energizes me? Makes me laugh? Pushes me to learn and grow? Shows up when others step out?
- Who in my life drains me? Who in my life do I need to set strong boundaries with?
- How might I be more intentional with investing more time in the relationships that energize me and minimize time with those that drain me?
Tip #4: Spend time with those you love (and be present and loving when do).
You never know how much time a loved one has left. A person can be here today and be gone in an instant.
A few years ago I had a friend visit me in New York. We were supposed to go out for dinner, but I got caught up in work. “Hey, I’m going to be in San Francisco in two weeks. How about we catch up when I’m there?” I asked him. He passed away before I made my way to San Francisco. I never saw him again.
Life is unpredictable. And in every moment you have a choice. The argument you had with a loved one, might be the last words you ever say to them. The time you were too afraid to share your feelings and tell someone how much you love and care for them might be words they never get to hear.
- Who in my life have I left the last conversation in a negative state?
- What things have been left unsaid with someone whom I love?
- How might I be more present and loving during the times I spend with loved ones?
Tip #5: Play in the present because time is fleeting.
We can learn from the past. We can look forward to what the future might hold. But the most important moment is now–the present. This moment will only happen once and when it’s gone, it’s gone. So make it count. Fill your time with play, joy, connections and things that matter. And when you do, truly be in the moment to experience it. That exact moment will only happen once. And it’s your choice whether you are present with it or not.
- What do I dwell on from the past that I want to let go of?
- If I knew that in one year I would die suddenly, what would I change about the way I am living?
- What am I willing to commit to doing so I can live my best life?
Time is everything. Simultaneously, time is nothing.
It’s not something you can grasp and hold onto. Yet, we can never escape the clutches of time. Nor can we escape death. Perhaps if we recognized just how beautiful, wonderful and treasured our time is, we could see the choices we have in front of us and choose to live the proudest, most deeply-connected, vibrant life we can in each moment that we’re alive.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Lost time is never found again.”