“The whole life of a man is but a point in time; let us enjoy it.” -Plutarch
There are certain motivational quotes that I find to be a double-edged sword, in that they can both motivate us and lead to guilt and pressure, depending on how we interpret them.
One such quote reads, “Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
To me, this quote implies using our time well means doing something huge for humanity. It also fails to acknowledge that creating time sometimes takes…well, time.
It’s true: each one of us has exactly 24 hours to fill every day—and ultimately, we have the ability to create our lives as we visualize them. However, we’re all starting from different situations, with different responsibilities.
An unemployed person who does not yet have a family, who is living rent-free with friends, can much more easily find time for their passions than someone who has a mortgage to pay, three children to support, and aging parents depending on them for care.
This is not to say the second person should consider themselves a victim of their circumstances, or make excuses to forget about their goals.
It’s merely a neutral evaluation of the facts. Sometimes we simply have more free hours in our schedule.
Why is it important to acknowledge this? Because it allows us to form a realistic plan based on our unique situations—one that allows us to identify windows of time and maximize them to the best of our ability, instead of worrying we’re not doing enough and then feeling paralyzed.
It’s a matter of being kind to ourselves in assessing our current reality and making a plan to transform it. As far as I’m concerned, being kind to ourselves is always the best use of our time.
So often in life we push ourselves to do and be more than we are, sometimes sacrificing our self-care and other priorities in order to get where we think we need to be.
It always benefits us to make time for the things that really matter to us, but if the goal is meaning and joy, it serves us well to ensure we’re not overwhelming ourselves, sacrificing meaning and joy now, hoping we’ll find them later.
Photo by h.koppdelaney