Life is not easy. Nor is it fair. I think we can all agree on that. Ironically, as time goes on, the ease of life can increase, while fairness seems to decrease. We grow, we learn, we acquire skill… only to run out of time to apply what we know in a meaningful and fulfilling way.
Consider the “usual” course of a modern lifespan. We muddle through childhood with all its injuries and troubles, stumble through the obstacle course of our youth, cast about in a full-tilt boogie during our 20’s to overcome the challenges of our earlier years, and then work like crazy people getting on our feet on the ground in our 30’s. In our 40’s, we’re more solidly on our feet, but things start to go wrong – spouses divorce, longstanding relationships of all kinds fracture, kids run into trouble as teens, parents become ill and/or die, and much that used to see set in stone has a way of morphing into something completely different or dissolving and disappearing completely.
Then come our 50’s, when still more physical changes happen – hormonal shifts that change our bodies’ rhythms and alter our standing in society, the further decline of the generation come before us… and the growing sense that we don’t have forever.
Then our 60’s arrive, when society expects us to start fading away and we start stepping out of the flow of productive lives… going into retirement, to enjoy our “golden years”.
If we’re fortunate, we see our 70’s, which can be characterized by physical and mental decline, the gradual passing-on of our friends and family members, and increasing financial uncertainty.
Those who are lucky – or hardy – enough to reach their 80’s, 90’s, and beyond can expect more of the same.
And in the final years of our advanced lives, there’s always the lingering question of just what our larger community is going to do with us, when all our customary intimate support systems have dissolved and passed away.
That’s the “normal” progression in the modern world. Plenty of people fall outside that paradigm and are resisting the inevitability of decline through a variety of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual approaches. 60 is the new 30, for sure. But what we all have in common – in the paradigm of having limited time on earth – is the experience of investing a whole lot of time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears into figuring out the world… only to realize we don’t have forever to put it to good use.
No sooner do we get to a point in our lives where we experience some level of mastery and a sense of accomplishment, than we become painfully aware that we’re not going to be around forever.
A window of opportunity opens on a bright, shining moment of feeling like we truly get it… and that window promptly begins to close.
Picking and Choosing : Adding Injury to Insult
Even worse than that – because let’s be honest, you could really die at any time, not only because of the ravages of time – if you’re living fully, paying attention, learning your lessons, and staying alert to the potential of life, you get to a point in life where so much more becomes possible than ever before. After years upon years of muddling through, figuring things out, being controlled by folks responsible for your welfare, weathering the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual storms of growing up, you amass enough experience to – at last – make your dreams come true and also do some good in the world.
You understand how things work. Finally. Perhaps even more importantly, you understand what doesn’t work. You have more ability than ever, to figure out exactly your dreams truly are, what needs to be done, what needs to be fixed, what needs to be stopped, what needs to be started. And you have the knowledge and experience and connections to make it all come true. At a certain age, with your hard-won accumulated knowledge, experience, ability, wisdom, drive, insight, and maturity, you have more power than ever to be the person you always wanted to be, do the things you always wanted to do, and effect positive change in the world.
But there’s not enough time in the day. You can’t do everything. You can think of so many things that could be done, that should be done, that should not go un-done. And you know how to do them. You’ve got the resources and resilience, to make it happen.
There’s just not enough time.
Sure, you could work like a crazy person, 20 hours a day, and sleep when you can. You could say good-bye to your friends and disappear into your World of Work. You could take shortcuts with bribes, manipulation, or other “workarounds”. But even with the most well-oiled machine on the planet, there would still not be enough time to do everything you can think of.
And so you either do many things so-so… or you let a lot of stuff drop, because you haven’t got the time to do it all. You make your choices. You cross things off your list. You prioritize and let go of prized projects that could really make a difference. You learn to live with that loss. And the world never finds out just what all you are capable of doing.
Because you only have so much time, and you can’t do it all.
So, What are Our Options?
How do we carry on in the face of these real and perceived time limitations? We of the modern Western world deal with “not having enough time” every single day of our lives, and we do it with varying levels of satisfaction.
As discussed above, we can give in to the apparent lack of time by picking and choosing what we do, and how and when we do it. We can develop all sorts of time management strategies, study how to Get Things Done, take classes and workshops, purchase paper planners and mobile apps, read the books of trusted experts, and follow time management blogs that give us daily updates on the latest in time management innovations.
If we accept that we have a limited amount of time on earth, these are our typical options. And they can give us some sense of influence and control over the movement of time in our lives.
Additionally, we have a couple of other options which range farther afield from our typical relationship to time:
Get Faster at what we do – do more with what limited time we have
Create More time – expand our experience of time, so that we literally have more to work with.
The idea of Getting Faster is not a new one. Athletes do it. Folks who earn their living from production of some kind do it. Folks in manufacturing, the trades, web technology production, and any kind of competitive business that relies on getting to market first, know intimately what it’s like to need to go faster – and do it better each time, so that quality isn’t sacrificed along the way. time crunches and deadlines are a way of life, and figuring out how to pack more high-quality productivity into a set timeframe is the brass ring countless folks reach out for on an hourly basis.
The other approach, Creating More time, may seem like a stretch. Isn’t time an objectively measured resource, which moves at its own pace, independent from our wishes and whims? After all, everybody uses clocks, and clocks measure the passing of time, regardless of how quickly or slowly we want it to pass. Doesn’t Father time have a mind of his own?
Maybe. Plenty of thinkers have pondered this in great detail, and they’ve come up with a lot of different explanations for the nature of time. My own experience, perceptions, and reflections tell me that this thing we call “time” is both an objective and a subjective phenomenon. It is both an independent entity in its own right and a part of our lives that changes its nature and qualities based on our own observations and experience of it. And it can change in response to certain types of intention.
Rather than being an immutable external “thing” that both rewards and victimizes us, time is a dynamic expression of our physical reality which changes its very nature based on how we relate to it and interact with its dynamic qualities.
Certainly, we can deal with the problems of “time shortage” by crossing items off our list of wishes and life missions. Yet ultimately, I believe – based on my own personal experience and a ton of a certain type of thinking I’ve been doing for years, now – that we can and do have the ability to not only change our pace to comfortably fit more activity into a limited timeframe, but also actually create more time to work with.
For me, personally, that’s good news.
I know how it works. I just need to be able to explain it on paper in a way that other people can understand and put to some use. I’m in the process of proving it all out, based on the assumption that there’s an excellent chance that I’m wrong… or that I’m missing something. But like any other theory or belief system, this is a work in progress, and it will necessarily change as more information comes to light.