During the weekend we received news of the death of a friend — someone we had known for more than 40 years.
This sad news made me realize — again — that time cannot be taken for granted.
Yet, too often, it’s easy to forget that life is short and to take time for granted.
We live our lives as if there were unlimited time.
Days pass by without much focus on dreams, on intentions, on aspirations.
Until some event jars our complacency.
It could be news of a health set-back, or news that a friend or colleague died suddenly, or it could be a near death experience such as a car accident.
To honour the full life that our friend lived, I have pulled together some of the ways that I can stop taking time for granted.
I’ll start by spending more time with the people I love. These are the people who are there for me when I’m at my best and also when I’m at my worst.
I won’t take the love of my family or my friends for granted but will make spending time with them a priority.
Related to spending time with people I love, I will encourage others — especially those in my family — to follow their dreams.
A huge responsibility for every parent is to show children how to live life to its fullest — helping them to explore life, to participate, and not to live as by-standers.
And I will work hard to make my life an example of living every day fully engaged and enthusiastic about achieving my dreams.
Because there is no guarantee that opportunities will come around a second time, I’ll practise saying ‘yes’. In the past few months I’ve focused on saying ‘no’ to things I don’t want to do.
As I consider that life is short, I will resolve to think more about saying ‘yes’ because a second chance may not happen. This means taking some risks, trying new things, accepting invitations and pushing boundaries.
I’m going to resolve not to think too far into the future. Yes, I will still make long-term plans, make responsible financial decisions, and do my best to care for my body. But I’ll try to focus more energy on living every day with enthusiasm. Planning too far ahead often leads to unnecessary worry especially if you are a natural ‘worrier’, as I am.
I will also to stop wasting time on trivial and unimportant things. I spend a fair amount of time online and, if I’m honest, I often waste time looking at useless information instead of focusing on research for a blog post. I also spend lots of time playing Sudoku which amuses me especially when I tell myself that it keeps my brain active. My life has been ruled by patterns of perfectionism so I have many household routines that take time. Sometimes a whole day gets frittered away with ‘tidying’.
And since you can’t store time or save it for another day, once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
Finally, in honour of our friend, I resolve not to mourn the past but rather to stay focused on the future. Our friend enjoyed a long and happy retirement. Although he lived in several countries, had a distinguished career in the military and at a prestigious university, he seldom spoke of his past accomplishments. Conversations with him were sprinkled with anecdotes of current interest.
Too often people — especially retired people — spend precious time re-living past achievements and recounting old stories. Because life is short, investing in today and thinking about future potential is much more productive than longing for a past gone forever.
For me, a quote from James Dean states perfectly why time can’t be taken for granted. He said, “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”
I’m planning for a long life. Even so, I haven’t any time to waste.