Time, An Asset That Is Finite And Wasted As If It Were Endless
Time is the one asset we have an extremely limited amount of. It wasn’t until very recently in my life that I began to care about time. Is it the fear of death? Is it the mounds of student loan debt crushing my freedom? I can’t pinpoint why, but time has become exponentially more valuable to me.
The book On the Shortness of Life: Life Is Long If You Know How to Use It by Seneca is an eye opener for those who are searching for a deeper meaning of time. Philosophy may scare readers off, but this book is easy to read and will offer you a new perspective on, arguably, our most valuable asset.
Why we waste time is the overarching question and Seneca does a wonderful job challenging our thought process. We as individuals need to be more cognizant in our day to day actions, and I’ve selected quotes that will push you to think deeper and analyze your allocation of time.
Time as It Relates to Our Desires and Fear
“You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire. ”— Seneca
Seneca tells us that we face fear with mortality. That we will someday run out of time. In turn, we act as if we have all the time in the world with our desires. For example, if your desire is to play video games, we act as if sitting in front of the television leaves our time unaffected.
Fear has a way of bringing us back to earth and letting us know that we are in fact only human. That our footprint in time is the equivilant to a grain of sand on the beach.
Time in Relation to Our Jobs or Careers
“Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations, but must regulate their sleep by another’s, and their walk by another’s pace, and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating. If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own.” — Seneca
As young adults, we are taught to get an education, work in a career for 40 years, and retire until death. Let’s break this down for a moment. With 24 hours in a day, we sleep for 8 hours, work for 8 hours, commute for 1 hour, and have 7 for our own use. That leaves us with about 29% of our daily hours allocated to us. This does not take into account meals, tending to children, bathing, or extra hours in the office.
By having a job we plan our lives around, we have very little control of our time. Now, if this is what you want in life, then it may not be as negative as Seneca states. However, many people have desires to travel or spend more time with loved ones. Seneca doesn’t offer a solution, but rather brings to our attention we have much less time than previously thought.
For me, freelancing is the answer to separate myself from corporate America, allowing ample control of my time.
Time in Relation To Tasks
“But when something has assailed my mind, which is not used to being battered; when something has happened which either is unworthy of me or cannot easily be dealt with; when unimportant things become time-consuming; I take refuge in leisure and, just like weary flocks of animals, I make my way more quickly home. I decide to restrict my life within its walls, saying, ‘Let no one rob me of a single day who is not going to make me an adequate return for such a loss. Let my mind be fixed on itself, cultivate itself, have no external interest — nothing that seeks the approval of another; let it cherish the tranquility that has no part in public or private concerns.” — Seneca
How many instances has someone asked for your time selfishly? Unknowingly it happens multiple times a day. A friend wants to chat with you about their life or a relative explains how they were wronged.
All too often, we give up our time and we receive nothing in return. Seneca states we need to be in control of who gets our allocation of time. Be mindful of who we allocate time with and look to find a growth opportunity for the time we’ve spent.
If you call a loved one you haven’t spoken with in quite some time, that is a respectful trade of time because you will receive peace of mind and solace they are safe. Eating dinner with a business partner is healthy because in return for your time, you progress your company and ability to grow.
For those instances where people want to waste your time, it is acceptable to say no and spend time healing and expanding your mind. Begin tasks that are for your own sake. Do not look for approval from others and be one with the task at hand.
Time in Relation To Complacency
“For unproductive idleness nurtures malice, and because they themselves could not prosper they want everyone else to be ruined.” — Seneca
Well all know that individual that brings everyone down because they never had their time to shine. This tends to be more common in older individuals because they’ve seen their lives pass by and realized they never chased their dreams.
Complacency leads to stagnation, which can then lead to jealousy and anger at peoples’ achievements. These people then become time wasters because they complain and never understand why their lives are sub-par compared to others. Their issues are sustained with the continued waste of time and need of fulfillment from others.
How we can mitigate this is offer a solution to those people, or simply ignore them. Again, time is much too valuable to waste on those unwilling to change. Seneca goes on to say, “Then from this dislike of others’ success and despair of their own, their minds become enraged against fortune, complain about the times, retreat into obscurity, and brood over their own sufferings until they become sick and tired of themselves”.
Time in Relation To Ourselves
“However, we must take a careful look first at ourselves, then at the activities which we shall be attempting, and then at those for whose sake and with whom we are attempting them. ”— Seneca
Lastly, we must focus inward and devote time to our lives and purposes. Seneca challenges us to first look within. Understand who we are and what our purpose is.
Then, we move to our activities and their reasons in our lives. If you find you spend time on playing video games, it is highly unlikely that it benefits your motives in life. Not only that, you are wasting time on empty tasks.
Finally, we need to ask who is getting our time and who we are spending our time with. Many times we find individuals are not contributing to our global cause. These steps allow us to focus on ourselves and begin living purposeful lives and allocating our time with meaning.
Seneca challenges our thoughts and way of life in regards to time. Even today, I find myself staring blankly into Facebook or Instagram. Slowly, I’ve become aware of my time wasting and have attempted to create a healthier and more worthwhile behavior. As the title of his book states, life is long if you know how to use it.