01 May Time Waits for No One: Will You Seize the Day or Continue to Watch the Weeks Roll By?
Time is finite. No reason to get sad, morose, or uneasy about it. In fact, you probably responded the way most do upon reading – “Well, of course, everyone knows that.” If that were true, it would seem carpe diem would be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Flash forward. When you do finally seize the day, will you be living the version you want to seize, or will have you opted for postponement? It’s no fun living one version of your life now and waiting for the other version to begin…someday.
As a society, we have become driven by time; yet somehow have steered off the path. Each week rolls into the next. We are lulled into believing there are endless tomorrows and give short shrift to the quality of our present living. Clients come to see me with crowning business achievements, multiple advanced degrees, and financial balance sheets that would make most envious. Yet what they all secretively want is quality time with their spouse and children, adventure, and joyful experiences. Eventually, they come to realize how time is most precious, yet so easily squandered. Their daily pressure cooker of work and exhaustive ‘to do’ lists are to be periodically alleviated by a vacation. Ironically, the deeper meaning of this word points to the greater issue at hand. You work, work, work, and then need a vacation in order to ‘temporarily vacate’ your life. Later in life, you’ll retire. From what? It begs the question – What life are you actually living now?
Our Relationship to time keeps changing
With frequent smartphone texts, instant messages, and email pings, life seems to be tethered to a microsecond of distraction. The collateral damage is evident if we look at the quality of family time. Under the guise of multitasking, deep conversations have been reduced to utterances and surface interactions. For millenniums, the big clock in the sky dictated the terms. Without electricity, the sun directed the time when we slept and woke. One’s survivability was interdependent with all others in the tribe. As we moved from self-sufficiency to increased commerce, our relationship to time drastically changed. The importance of work and stature took on new meaning. There was even a law in Massachusetts dating back to 1663 that stated, “No person, householder or other shall spend his time idly or unprofitably, under pain of such punishment as the court shall think meet to inflict.”
Throughout the course of the 20th century, innovation after innovation promised the all-elusive life of leisure. Quality time for self, family, friends, and community seemingly was just around the corner, an opportunity to learn new things, explore, and broaden one’s horizons. What happened? It seems the inverse has. Instead of being freed up, the time has been swallowed. Today you have a choice of how you want to proceed. It is as simple as consciously creating the life you want, even if it goes against the grain of convention. Remember, time is finite. You will never get the wasted back. Champion the experiences and adventures that create your fulfillment.
Do it now.
As an example, let’s use Sarah and her husband Clayton’s desired trip to Vermont to illustrate how they keep taking time for granted and foregoing their desired life. Sarah and Clayton love nature and being outdoors. Annually they talk about how great it would be to fly to Vermont during the height of the fall foliage. Year after year they watch from the sidelines, or shall we say, from over nineteen hundred miles away.
Starting in early September, they begin to track the weather in Vermont knowing how important rain and a sharp cold snap are the magical ingredients to a brilliant display. Later when they see a friend’s fall time photos on Facebook or an article about leaf peepers splashing across the newspaper, they suddenly become envious. At some point, one of them will always say to the other, “We are definitely going next year!”
The reality is that, as long as Sarah and Clayton watch from the sidelines, their chances of going dwindle drastically. Realistically, they have 17 chances…or less. Sarah and Clayton are 49-years- old and think they have all the time in the world. Because they want to take long hikes in the woods and go camping while physically able, they’ll probably want to go before they are 66. Unconsciously, they are thinking in terms of total days (6,205), not yearly one-time opportunities (17). Those are not guarantees, merely possibilities. If you consider all the potential timing issues that might come up each fall time – family obligations, illness, workload, finances, etc – those possibilities are easily reduced to single digits.
Do you really want to live a life like Sarah and Clayton, where time slips by believing there are endless tomorrows? This is true for all aspects of your life from large to small. When is the last time you went on a picnic or laid out underneath the stars on a blanket? Do you have a friend you haven’t seen in a while or class you’ve always wanted to take? When is the last time you hugged your loved one for two long delicious minutes?
You can choose to live your life completely differently by actively creating your own carpe diem. The first step is to define your life/family/self/work balance. Discover how you want to spend your time. Notice what calls to you and what activities bring you happiness. Who energizes you when you are around them? What environments do you find solace in? How will you actively seize the day?
It may take a while to change your patterns and habits. Mindfully practice this and eventually every moment, every day will be one of great joy. There won’t be a reason to vacate your life because you’ll be living it fully in real-time. To begin, ask yourself a simple question, “If not now, when?”