December 16, 2018
What is your relationship with time?
Is it your friend, or your enemy?
Is time something to embrace, or something to conquer?
Do you sometimes find yourself racing to get through a task so that you can finally enjoy your ‘life’?
Or waiting with baited breath for the end of the workday, or for that vacation that you’ve been anticipating since last year’s vacation?
How often do you find yourself detached from what you’re doing because you see it as a waste of time?
All those scenarios suggest that ‘real’ living happens only when you are disengaged from the fundamentals of your life.
The problem with waiting for the time when you will be completely unencumbered (picture sitting on the couch in front of the TV with a beer in an empty house), is that the opportunities for periods of time where we can do whatever we want, are actually quite rare.
The truth is, if you were completely unencumbered, you would likely feel isolated, lonely, and depressed.
We humans are hard-wired to be productive and engaged with our families and communities.
If we define being vibrantly alive as having no encumbrances, we are going to be on automatic pilot most of the time, in wait for life to stop so that we can enjoy it.
Life never stops. Even on vacation, or at the end of our work day when we do drop down on the couch, life invariably shows up. A child wants a glass of water, a dog needs to go out, your partner has had a terrible day and hopes for a listening ear. You live alone and as soon as you sit down on the couch the doorbell rings and it’s your friend looking for company, or you remember that you promised to help a neighbor hang blinds.
The key to milking time for all it’s worth is to stop waiting for it to pass until you get to the good stuff. Everything is the good stuff depending on the lens through which you’re looking.
Og Mandino, in The Greatest Salesman in the World, distinguishes between approaching a task with an ‘I have to’ mentality vs an “I get to’ mentality.
My toddler son wants ANOTHER glass of water before he can fall asleep. I get to provide it because I live in a home with running water and every convenience to make our lives comfortable. I get to let the dog out (and back in), because we are privileged to add a family member who entertains us and brings us joy. I get to be a listening ear for a partner who has had a hellish day, because I’m blessed to be in a relationship that expands and nourishes both of us. I get to be there for my friend because there is nothing better than knowing I’ve made someone else’s day or helped to turn a bad day into a good one.
Making friends with time, with each moment of each day, transforms ‘I have to’ to ‘I get to’.
Mindfulness is never more potent than when we remember to bring it to the everyday, mundane, repetitive tasks of our lives.
It can change our experiences of waking up, using a modern bathroom with a sink and a toilet, brushing our teeth, showering, packing lunches, driving to work, interacting with (difficult or easy) co-workers, eating lunch either alone or with others, the drive home, preparing dinner, doing the dishes (preferably with the kids and partner doing their fair share). There is nothing about any of these things that isn’t ‘living’.
Living is about active participation and engagement with our everyday activities, in every moment.
I’m not talking about over-working or under-delegating. Working three jobs, or not delegating to the rest of the family, or kidding yourself that you’re not exhausted when you’re exhausted – that is not the living I’m talking about. That’s another form of being on automatic pilot.
I am talking about using every moment of your everyday life as an opportunity to live. To be fully alive. To approach each task with the attitude ‘I get to’ appreciate this time, rather than ‘I have to’ get through this time.
Mindfulness is a wizard that transforms time. In so doing it magically makes us a little more loving. At least, this is my theory. What do you think?
I hope you’ll pick one activity today where you can shift from ‘I have to’ to an ‘I get to’ perspective and see what happens to your relationship with time, with yourself, and with others.