Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Take time to live your own life

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."
- Confucius

It seems that everyone in the western world believes that time moves faster as we get older. Days, weeks and years fly by like never before in the past.

Seconds tick over at the same rate for people of 30 or 60 as they do for children of course, so why does time seem to move so much faster as we get older?

The answer is that as we get older we tend to expect more from life.

We know more people, which means we receive from them and send to them more phone calls and emails, and we speak with them more often when we meet. It's not that we speak with them more than when we were teens, for example, but that we communicate with them in so many more places because we are more mobile.

We belong to more clubs and other groups. We take time to exericse instead of exercising as we execute other tasks.

We own more pieces of machinery to make our lives easier. Washing machines and dryers, lawn mowers, shavers, four-wheelers, boats, food processors, vacuum cleaners and electric toothbrushes all take time to buy, charge and fix (or fuss over being broken before we decide to trash them).

We insist on time to entertain ourselves or to be entertained. Not only do we feel we deserve it, we need this time to relax and unwind from our busy days.

Our work schedules tend to be busier because we have more responsible jobs, which require more decisions in a day, more plans to make, more meetings, more phone calls and emails to send.

Our communication with governments increases--tax forms take longer to figure out or we have to find professionals to do the job for us, we have questions that could cost us dearly if we don't find out from government representatives how to do something properly, there are more laws and bylaws we have to learn about when we removate our homes.

While we learned much of what we needed to know about looking after a home as young adults from our parents, any change to our living arrnagements beyond those early days of young adulthood requires a huge amount of time to process.

Not only divorces and breakups take time, but concern and worry over the possibility of their coming takes time.

Building new lives because of a relationship breakup, loss of a job, a legal charge for which we must defend ourselves (and the planning that goes with each) take enormous amounts of time.

Any kind of conflict that affects our emotions--including physical attacks and emotional terrorism by work colleagues, other members of our religion or neighbours--requires a great deal of time to sort through and figure out what we will do.

Keeping up with explosive volumes of news--now available to us from all parts of the globe as well as from our own community--takes time each day so that we don't appear ignorant when others talk about these events around the water cooler or over coffee.

We tend to adopt more responsibilities in our personal lives than we might have considered in past years.

Finally, those who want to sell us things or persuade us of the merits of their point of view take an inordinate amount of our time. We can learn to control those situations.

The more we expect of life, the more cluttered and complicated it gets, and the faster time seems to pass. And, in many cases, the less time we take to appreciate the good things we have in our lives.

As Confucius said, life is simple if we focus on what we need, what those we love need (not on what they want) and how we fulfill those needs. Wants and desires take time. Taking time to think for ourselves makes time seem less rushed.

Those who take some quiet time for themselves to think and to relax the brain tend to feel less that time is rushing past them, that they are in control of their lives. If we live our lives totally for others and take no time for ourselves, we don't live a life, we vicariously live the lives of the others.

There will always be others who want us to invest our time in them. They may deserve it, but we deserve for ourselves too.

Within reason, it's not selfish, but life-affirming. It's life-extending.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help each person build the life they want.
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