Have you ever said to yourself, “Time is moving so quickly!”? I know I have. I used to be absolutely stunned at how as a child time seemed to move so slowly. A summer lasted a lifetime. School never seemed to end. I felt as though I would be a child forever. But then I kept growing, and when I found myself at adulthood I couldn’t get time to stay still. It moved so quickly, and I found life passing, and I worried frequently that I would miss everything. That one day I would blink and I would be much closer to death, and that would be it.
Most people go through this change in time. For most people childhood moves rather slowly because we are unaware of life’s duties and the inevitable passing of time. We are largely unaware of death and the things we want to accomplish before then. So we are blissfully ignorant of time at all, and thus, it moves slowly.
Depending on who you are, you might think about time frequently. Maybe you’re at work and have a deadline and comment on how you wish you had longer. Maybe you are savoring a good moment and wish it could last forever. Or maybe you are growing older and thinking of when you had more time. No matter what the circumstance, we all think about time at some point in our lives, and usually it is a constant companion.
But the reason I write about this is because of my shift in how I perceive time. I used to worry about it. I used to think it moved so quickly. But now things have changed. Just the other day my husband asked me if I felt time moved too quickly, and without hesitation I said “no”. Because, without realizing it, I changed my perspective on time. I stopped wondering where it had gone and instead started to embrace where it was now, for however long it chooses to stay.
I started thinking about what changed in my life over the last few years. People always say that as you get older time moves faster – an old saying to be sure, but one that is very often true. The older we get, the faster time seems to move. If this is true, then I must be nearing the edge of a black hole, because time is doing just the opposite.
What changed for me is my attitude toward life. I used to see it as a race. I used to want to be better (than who, I can’t exactly say), and achieve more, and be rewarded for these things. I saw others doing more and wanted to hustle to be like them. I saw greatness swirling around me and wanted a piece for myself. I tried really hard to get to the top. I valued that which now I see as a plague.
What changed is how I react to situations, as well as how I create them and how I leave them. Instead of working to be better, I work to be complete. Instead of creating situations that are full of stress I create situations that are full of peace. And when one chapter closes, I do not think of all I could have done but instead all that I did do, and I feel fulfilled.
1. Set goals for yourself, but do not set strict time limits.
I am all for setting goals, and I am even all for giving yourself a timely goal to complete your task. What I am not all about is what I call the Pass/Fail grading system. If you set a goal for yourself, and a date to complete that goal, it is not healthy to judge yourself solely based on how well you met that arbitrary date. Should your plan not come together fully by that time, do not give yourself a failing grade. Do not look down at yourself. Keep going, and realize that your dream is worth it.
2. When something goes wrong, teach yourself how to see the good in it.
Failures are for crazy people…meaning you have to be crazy to buy into them. Forget about failures. Stop seeing life as failure and success. Instead see it as an in-between, no matter how wonderfully or how terribly something goes. If it goes wrong, seek out those things you did well in the effort. If it goes well, seek to better yourself by identifying weaknesses. Life is almost never about a failure or a success. It is about your journey to get there and how much you have grown once you’re on the other side.
3. Keep a list.
When looking back at our life, it is easy to identify different chapters. Childhood. College. Marriage. Parenthood. Career. Self-discovery. Etc.
This is how people think. We split our lives up into these smaller pockets so that we can keep track of what has happened to us. Let’s play into that a little bit. As you enter each new experience, write down words to describe how you felt about it. I am not good at journaling my experiences. I get bored with it. But if you can remember to, every so often, write down simple words that indicate what you’ve learned from a specific situation then you are more likely to savor those lessons and keep them closer.
Here are some good examples from my life. I used to be far too interested in the worry that surrounds the internet: is so-and-so copying my work? Did I get a negative comment? Will people like me? From these naturally occurring questions I began to develop answers for myself, though not in direct relation to the questions. I learned humility, in understanding that the world does not revolve around any one person. I learned optimism, in realizing it is far more fulfilling to trust and love than to distrust and hate. I learned confidence, in understanding that I must love myself before anyone else will take that chance.
Learn from your circumstance, and remember those lessons. Keep them close, and let them govern your life. The more lessons you gather, the more life seems to slow down and taste a little bit sweeter.
4. Ditch the media.
My phone is a phone most of the time. It doesn’t update me on emails, and I frequently have it turned to airplane mode. I don’t bring my camera and laptop most places I go if I can help it. I turn my computer off when I’m not using it so it isn’t as easy to access on a whim. I’ve implemented a new system of coming up with creative ideas: instead of logging them in my phone, I write them on notepads strategically placed around my house, in my car, and in my purse.
The obsession that is wanting everything immediately largely stems from media. If we can take it down a notch and do things the old-fashioned way from time to time, we begin to savor the moments we spend doing those things a little bit more. Instead of driving, walk. Instead of emailing, write a letter. Instead of starting your day with the computer, watch the sunrise. Let nature take over. Appreciate the immediacy of life.
5. Start a gratitude club.
Start a tradition for yourself where you share what you are grateful for. Maybe it is at the dinner table, or you start a dinner club once a week for your friends to talk about gratitude. Maybe you start a blog, or use it as a space to talk about gratitude. Maybe you write it down for yourself.
At the end of every week (I choose Fridays) I talk with my husband about what I was grateful for during the previous week. This allows me to focus on the good, learn from the bad, and understand more clearly what is good about my life. If I am having trouble coming up with enough points, I search for my failures. There is more goodness in failures than in successes.
6. Find meaning in everything.
Search. SEARCH. It is what keeps us questioning and wondering and alive. Search for meaning in all things big and small. Do not wait for momentous occasions for your life to seem full and important. Create them for yourself. Run through the forest and pretend you are the wind. Notice someone’s smile on a bus and smile back, and feel the humanity in that. Cry when you want to cry and laugh when you want to laugh and enjoy the power in that. From the most mundane, everyday objects to the most important, life-changing travels, everything contains equal potential to astound us.
7. Find your innocence and curiosity.
Childhood goes by so slowly because we are discovering. When I was very young I had a dream that I flew, but I believe it really happened. So instead of telling me that it was all a dream, my mom told me that everyone flies once in their life, and that was my turn. What grew in me was a sense of huge imagination. I believed her. I believed in my ability to do whatever I wanted. I believed I was special. When we are children we believe these things so easily. We see our potential without recognizing it as such, and we believe we are worth trying for.
Get that feeling back. Believe in things you would usually discount. Learn to deny nothing and find the possibility in all things. Create your own possibilities, and believe you are worth it.
Don’t let this new year come and go. Spend time in the middle of it. Enjoy each moment of it.
Photograph taken during my stay in Hana (Maui) Hawaii in October with model Marsha Denlinger.