Over the past few months, my focus has been on ruthless self-discipline. I’ve written about this extensively on the site. It’s important to me, and it should be to you as well.
After all, we live and we die. Life moves quickly, a realization I’ve made just recently. Before we know it, our best years are behind us. We wake up a little sorer, a little more tired, a little older looking.
Soon, we are reflecting on a life that we hate.
Why did I waste so much time doing things I didn’t like?
Why did I WASTE so much time??
Ask someone who has lived a full life this question:
What are your greatest memories?
What kinds of answers would you expect?
- Time spent with family
- Time spent with friends
- Learning a new skill (and succeeding with it)
- Emotional, impactful moments
What won’t people say?
- Sitting in a chair in an office for 45 years “working” for something I cared nothing about
- Watching TV
- Playing video games
- Making sure I kept up-to-date on my social media accounts
Most people waste their time in the second group, especially younger people.
I am guilty of this myself.
My days would consist of work, TV, playing games, and wasting time on Facebook or Instagram. I’m embarrassed to look back, but that’s part of the growth and development process.
I woke up one day and realized I had enough of wasting time. Actually, it was an evolving process.
Reading books (and informative blogs) became my catalyst to change.
Things could really be like THIS?
I then turned what I read into actual experiences.
But I kept on pushing, working daily to improve.
I told myself, “Start your life.”
And I did.
Older people have lots of regrets. They wish they did things different when they were younger. They wish they could have seen the bigger picture “in the moment,” without the aid of hindsight, when it’s too late.
As I wrote back in September:
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who worked with patients during the last weeks of their lives. She decided to record the regrets of these people, and documented them in a book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”
Below are top 5 regrets:
1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
YOU MUST SEE THE BIG PICTURE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
Obviously, the younger you are, the longer you will have to put your mark on the world, to making a meaningful impact, on yourself and those around you.
But regardless of age, it’s imperative you get to the point where you realize what matters in life.
For me, it’s helping people improve. It’s creating memories – through experiences such as travel and time spent with those I care about.
But I wasn’t always this way. I used to be insecure, shy, and ashamed of myself. I also wasted time. A lot of it.
I cared only about myself, and had a shallow, disinterest in the opinions, viewpoints and feeling of others.
I thought I knew everything, but I really knew nothing at all.
I was naïve, but more importantly, I was ignorant. I would voice baseless opinions that held little merit.
I also enjoyed arguing. The reason was simple; I was unhappy with my life and tried to compensate by belittling others. This made me feel like my voice mattered – that I was an authority figure. I wasn’t.
Nowadays, I’m blessed to have realized who I am and where I’m going.
I dropped wasteful habits (still a ways to go), and became interested in different fields. I realized that I’ve been lied to most of my life – about women, about education and college, about necessary life skills, about the “real world.”
Thankfully, that’s irrelevant now, because I see life for what it is.
I know where I am and where I will be.
Creating Lasting Change
We’re all different. We come from different backgrounds and different places. My desires, beliefs, and passions are probably completely different than your own.
What is important is that YOU identify the things that truly matter to YOU.
The goal isn’t an easy one, but it’s a necessary one. It will probably be the most impactful move you make in your life, at least in the top five or ten.
It will take a lot of focus and self-discipline.
You can do it though.
How would I know that?
Because I did it.
My self-discipline used to be terrible.
I was a different person every day. Inconsistent was my middle name.
But once I brought structure to my life, I became a machine.
It took dedication and hard work, but it is certainly possible for everyone to achieve.
It comes down to one thing:
How bad do you want it? How bad do you want to improve?
Here’s what you’re going to do.
One In, One Out Policy
A few months ago, I read a great book on a minimalist lifestyle.
It was called Simplify ($2.99 on Amazon).
It was a 20 minute read and was packed with actionable tidbits to how to bring clarity and order to one’s life.
One point that stuck with me was the author’s “one in, one out” policy with clothing.
Whenever he or his wife bought new clothes, they made sure to discard an item they already had. This helped them focus on avoiding clutter and unnecessary build-up of unworn items.
Now imagine this strategy, but with the time wasters in YOUR life.
Let me explain more thoroughly.
We obviously cannot buy back time. We have no power over how much time we have left. We can influence it to a degree, but the unknown isn’t quantifiable.
Time sustainer is a term I coined and I define it as this:
A time sustainer is an activity or event that brings meaning to one’s life, through increased happiness, discipline, or knowledge. The activity is sustainable, as in it embeds within us as either a memory, stored knowledge, or lasting habit and/or mindset change.
Here is the exercise:
We are going to replace TWO time wasters with TWO time sustainers.
Here are some examples of time sustaining activities:
- Creating (writing, drawing, painting, cooking)
- Face-to-face conversations
- Family & friend time (in person)
- Physical exercise & activities
- Learning (can be anything)
- Practicing a skill
We all have time wasting activities that we prioritize over time sustainers. Because of this poor use of time, we say things like “I don’t have time for that!”
Here is a quick way to decide if something is wasting your time:
Will I look back on this activity in one year and remember it as meaningful? How about ten years?
I mentioned a few earlier in the article, but here are a few more:
- TV (movies, shows, reality)
- Video/computer games
- Social media (Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter – all of them!)
- Excessive/compulsive e-mail practices
- Job with no growth or learning opportunities
- Unimportant texting
- Reading news articles all day
- Reading blogs all day
- Negative, needy people
- Traffic (due to poor logistics)
Most of these things are fine in moderation. I have no issue with escapism, but only from time to time. Some of these time wasters should be avoided entirely though.
If you run through your typical day, I bet you are wasting far more time than you thought possible.
Neither list is all encompassing, but you get the idea.
Again, the goal is simple.
We are going to replace TWO time wasters with TWO time sustainers.
I picked only TWO because TWO should be achievable.
It won’t be easy, but YOU can do it.
If changing your habits comes easy (strong self-discipline), then feel free to attack all the time wasting activities in your life. Attack them gradually though, don’t burn yourself out and end up back at square one.
But just replacing TWO times wasters will drastically improve your life.
Here are some examples:
- Instead of a half hour of Netflix each night, you will read.
- Instead of checking social media (20-30 minutes a day), you will do hill sprints
- Instead of playing video games, you will learn how to create a website.
Take your time back. In fact, take your life back.
Society tricks us into believing that time wasters are good for us – that we deserve to relax and indulge.
Life is too short.
Remember: “Life” is nothing more than an empty term.
It’s up to each of us to create a meaningful life.
YOU define meaningful in your own, unique way. Make it less about wasting time, especially in your 20’s and 30’s.
Accomplishing something meaningful feels awesome. And no, another finished season on Netflix doesn’t count.
Step up and enact change. It will be one of the most important steps in your life. Not #1, but it will be up there.
Our life isn’t a given. Control what you can. Do it today.
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