If someone consistently spends 70+ hours a week at their work, while they may do well in their career, it would hardly be surprising when their marriage suffers or that they are stressed and unhappy in other areas of their life. One may not feel as if they have much of a choice with mortgage, insurance, and car payments or other bills rolling in non-stop. However, ultimately, it is an individual’s choice to devote the time and effort required to support a certain lifestyle at the expense of other things.
It is always a trade off. An alternative would be to choose a simpler, less expensive lifestyle which may not be as impressive by societal standards, but which allows the person to work less, feel less stressed, spend more time with family and pursue other things which they enjoy. It IS a choice.
Similarly, if someone comes home from work and plops down on the sofa in front of the TV with a bag of chips, this, too, is a choice to invest one’s time in a way which may show up as negative health consequences before too very long. Someone choosing to use their time to exercise, meditate, read, paint or cook a healthy meal is creating a different life. They are making a choice even if it is not a conscious one. Your life is the culmination of your many, every day, seemingly insignificant choices.
In the movie In Time, rather than money, the currency of the world is time. Everyone quits physically aging at 25 years old, and can live infinitely as long as they can afford it. People are paid in time. People bank time. Everything from a cup of coffee to gas costs time. When someone runs out of time, they die. The rich can live forever. While the movie did not get very good reviews, I enjoyed it and thought the basic concept was very interesting. While our society does operate on money, I would argue that the cost of money is always time (unless you win the lottery). Hence, the underlying cost is always time.
After my brain injury, resulting from a suicide attempt five years ago, I woke up from a coma in the hospital with no awareness of time. I had no concept of night and day either, even though there was a window to the left of my bed. In the hospital, with the glaring, fluorescent lights and the blinds closed, there was no time. With my mind not being fully engaged, time did not even exist. I only had a very vague concept of the past or future. It was always right now.
Being brain injured taught me how to be in the moment and changed my relationship with time. As my brain healed, I gradually came back into and experienced the common phenomenon of time with all of the tugs and pulls in different directions. However, I was now aware that these constraints were self created in my mind. Through mindfulness, I worked on bringing this new skill forward and preserving the ability to be in the present moment. Believe it or not, I kind of miss the severely brain injured days in which I was totally unaware of anything but the present moment. It had the feeling and wonder of being a care free kid again.
In an article by Deepak Chopra, Change Your Sense of Time, he says that the best use of time reconnects a person with their being while a misuse of time does the opposite moving a person further away from their being. He suggests that changing your relationship with time can change your reality.
I now consider my time to be my most valuable asset. Everything I do has to be worth it to me in terms of my time investment. It is amazing to me all that can I can accomplish taking this approach and purposefully choosing how to use my time. By consciously making these choices, every minute of every day, I am creating my life. Present and future.
Steve Jobs in a 2005 speech to Stanford graduates had this to say about time:
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
How and where you invest your time IS a choice. Choose wisely.