I’ve seen enough throughout my life to have lost my fear of death. This wasn’t always the case. During my twenties and thirties, I was certain I would live forever. Losing loved ones along the way made me realize my mortality, but I did not embrace it until now.
Life is an ongoing cycle of transformation, but many hold the more limiting view that everything begins, ends and then there is no more. The fact is that death is as much a natural part of life as birth is. But, although I no longer fear my death, the knowledge that my body will cease to function someday has triggered in me an urgency to live my life to the fullest now.
Eleven things people do that waste precious years.
What would you do if you only had five years to live? Because your life is limited, wasting any moment is a travesty. You probably have a list of things you want to have or do during your lifetime, so when are you doing to get those items done? Asking you to focus on five years is important because it is a substantial amount of time to make you think long and hard about what you want to do with your life. But checking off the items in your bucket list will not bring you any joy if you are wasting your remaining years if you have adopted any of the following eleven bad habits.
1) Trying to live up to what you think people expect of you. It is easy to fall into this people pleasing trap, so here are some things to keep in mind. People don’t think that much about others, so what they expect from you can change daily, sometimes one hundred eighty degrees from what they told you the last time you asked them. Chasing the expectations of others is a waste of time. Best way to avoid this is to focus and stick to what you desire.
2) Satisfying the shoulds. These are the things you think you should do, even though you don’t want to. These can be small, like going to the birthday party of a coworker you barely know. But doing the unwanted shoulds can add up. Just count the “shoulds” you do every day and you will see how much time you take away from doing what you desire.
3) Keeping score. An “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a stupid way to live. This is the most basic form of keeping score, and the consequences of this should be obvious. Nothing good could come out of this. There are other ways of keeping score that are just as useless. Here are some good examples. Someone invited you to their house for dinner, and now you feel obligated to invite them back. You got an unexpected Christmas gift from a neighbor and now you think you have to buy one for them in repayment. The possibilities are endless, someone does something for you and you are propelled to do the same or more for them. What a colossal waste of time and energy!
4) Blind adherence to inane rules. Humans created every rule there ever was, is, or ever will be. Many are arbitrary, example; you can only buy ten items or fewer to go through an express check-out line at the grocery store. Why ten and not eleven? Remember when Catholics couldn’t eat meat on Fridays? Here are some others. Believing the kitchen is a woman’s domain while the man is ruler of the yard. Reading a book is an acceptable distraction from everyday life, but watching TV is a waste of time. Restricting sex to one or two acceptable ways and judging all others to be immoral (not sure why I went there, let’s just say the Universe inspires me in unusual ways). Feeling guilty if you don’t call your mother every day. Not napping when tired because you believe naps are only for children and old people.
When you are ready to eliminate these rules out of your life, inventory your list with an eye on the ones that take time away from what you want to do or deprive you of joy and serenity.
5) Not taking chances. Everything worth doing involves a certain amount of risk and discomfort. Depriving yourself out of that trip you always wanted to take, or from asking the attractive woman out, or applying for the interesting job might keep you in comfort and security, but not taking chances will bore you to pieces.
6) Scheduling life with so much busy work that you never have time to pursue your heart’s desires. Nothing wastes time like frivolous activity. When you schedule a bunch of them back to back, day after day, you might as well flush your life down the toilet. Open up your schedule so you can reflect, meditate and consider doing the things that give you joy and passion. Wipe out the myriad of things you need not do but do out of habit.
7) Striving for perfection in everything. I am for giving your best effort, but not everything requires that you have to be the best at it. For example, I am not a great car mechanic and I have no drive to get better at it (no pun intended). I would pay a mechanic to work on my car rather than I become the best at it. It would be more fun for me to spend my time becoming a better salsa dancer. Discerning the things that matter to you is important. Striving to be the best at everything will only lead to burnout.
8) Not showing your love to the people dear to you. Life is short. Therefore, it is important to show your love and appreciation for those who matter to you as often as you please. There is no guarantee they or you will be around for a later day when you can do this.
9) Obsessing over what is not good for you. Eating organically grown food is a good thing. Reducing the intake of sugar, caffeine, and other chemicals is also a healthy thing to do. The benefits of exercise have proven to help us live longer and healthier. But we can carry all of this too far. It is perfectly all right to stay playing with the kids and skip the daily run. Having an ice cream cone or a slice of pizza now and again is fun and satisfying. Doing this will not kill you, so don’t fret about it so much.
10) Worrying. No amount of worrying changes anything. When you waste your time worrying, you cloud your mind and hide the clarity needed to tackle today’s problems. Worrying fuels your fears and increases the chances of what you fear to happen. It is much healthier to accept there is not a lot you can do to change things and learn the lessons from your experiences and move forward.
11) Wishing. There is something gratifying about wishing. But a wish only comes true without effort if a genie comes out of the magic lamp you just rubbed. It takes effort to make what you hope for happen. Even then, you must have a plan by which to focus your efforts. So, if you wish for something, make a plan and take daily steps towards your goal. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, then another, then another, and so on.
Your time to live your best life is now! There will never be a period when every problem in your life is resolved so you can pursue what you want, so don’t wait.
Don’t expect others to solve your problems for you either, for everyone is busy figuring their own life out. Work to make every moment serve the purpose you want. The clock is ticking.