Tick. Tock. You’re dead.
“You are the creator of your own destiny”, “Time is in your hands”, “You only live once”. Feeling inspired? Um, maybe. Definitely not with the last quote. Are you going to do something about it? Meh. Me neither. Until…
It was the April of 2016. I was on my daily Youtube videos binge as I stumbled upon a TED talk which completely changed my perception of life.
I think the idea of time as a limited resource lived in the back of my head all along, but it lacked a simple perspective which would make that idea tangible.
That is, until I saw: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator. Tim Urban TED talk.
Apparently, the speaker is a really cool guy, named Tim Urban. Not only he is a great public speaker (it was one of the funniest TED talks I have ever seen), he is a co-founder of blog named Wait But Why (new post every sometimes), which has a huge audience of readers all around the world. I guess I’ve read all of Tim’s posts. Twice. Anyway.
The idea for Tim’s TED talk originates from one of his posts about procrastination (Why procrastinators procrastinate). I am not going to drill into the head of a procrastinator (story of my life), even though the idea is presented in an amazingly simple and convincing way, but I will emphasize the end of Tim’s talk — The Life Calendar.
Tim had split 90 years (one’s lifetime) in weeks on a sheet of paper, where each little square represents a week, and a row stands for a year (52 weeks). Here’s how it looks like:
So what did I do after the TED talk? You guessed it, I’ve printed the calendar and filled every single week of my life with by hand. When I looked at the finished example, I was blown away. A quarter of the squares were black (I am turning 25 in August). What struck me the most was not the fact that the quarter of my life is already gone (that is, if I am lucky enough to live until the age of 90), but the fact that the most of the boxes were not filled with the ink. Most of them were filled with something much darker.
I wondered how many of those boxes were filled with anger and envy? How many of those boxes were filled with judgment, hate and comparison? How many of those boxes were filled with the time which was spent on the people with whom you didn’t want to spend that time with, doing things that you didn’t want to do? I wondered how many times I sought the approval or validation of others even though those people have little or no significance on my current life? I wondered how many times our dreams are outweighed by the opinions of others? And at that very point I realized one thing, I am not immortal. I will die. And judging from the filled boxes — it will happen soon enough.
The whole experience got me thinking. A lot. Probably for the rest of the year, and probably that’s why you are reading my first Medium post right now. Throughout the year I came to one conclusion — 90 % of the people around me are taking their time for granted. I am one of them. Or at least was one of them. I wouldn’t say that this shift of perception was an epiphany, since I haven’t moved to Thailand and I am still climbing the corporate ladder, but at least it got me thinking about my life’s expiration date. And it definitely brought some positive changes into my life. I became aware of my emotions and the activities that I am spending my time on (I lost count of the apps and extensions which tracks my habits), the information that I am consuming and the people that I choose to surround myself with. I realized that time is the most precious resource on earth, worth much more than diamonds or gold. It may seem like paranoia (please tell me that I am not the only one), but let me assure you, I am the same procrastinator as before, only with a little bit of self-awareness. Either way, if it wasn’t for the TED talk, I wouldn’t have gotten into the self-improvement ideas, which led me to Medium platform and eventually — this entry.
Currently I am facing a dilemma — how will I fill the rest of the boxes? Will I fill them with the same emotions as before? I don’t think so. Your time is too precious to spend it on negative emotions and live the lives of others, that is, unless you are trying to improve your surroundings and help the people around you. I’ve decided to fill the rest of the boxes with small steps towards my dreams, without seeking the approval of others or paralyzing myself with the fear of failure. Instead, I’ve replaced the fear of failure with the fear of regrets. Remember? You miss the 100% of the shots you don’t take.
It is tempting to ask what makes the life worth living? Maybe it is supposed to be that way? Full of self-doubt and struggle? Or rather it should be filled with leisure and entertainment? I am still seeking an answer, but there is one thing I am sure of — life is supposed to be filled with happiness. Sadly, we tend to lock ourselves in an imaginary world, where we will have enough time, money, and everything else we talked ourselves into, but most of us live in that world until the day we die, forgetting that the real world is out here, not in our heads. Life shouldn’t be lived by the idea that one day you will make it by chance — you know, that “Eureka!” moment while you’re taking a shower, or a moment when you accidentally drop your books on the floor and an amazingly beautiful woman or man (for the ladies out there) bends over to help you (obviously slow motion), you fall in love and marry each other, or that one call from your boss to land you a dream job, or that one post on Medium which turns you to overnight success (you see what I did there), and every other movie tape you’ve been playing in your head. Sure, it may happen, but if it won’t — your life is on the line. One quote sums it all up — “Hope is not a strategy for life”. Of course, you should never lose hope or belief in yourself, but as as long as you bet on the “Hope” card, there is a high chance that you will lose the game. Therefore, put yourself out there, make failures, dream big and I guarantee — you will be rewarded with much more that happiness.
So, dear Medium folk, I know that some of you (majority?) are reading this story while procrastinating on something (at least I am, by consciously avoiding my master thesis, yay), but what the hell, I feel the urge to share my thoughts and I hope that this piece will resonate with someone just as the TED talk did with me back in the last year. If at least one of you will get a small kick in the butt — I will call it a day.
Next time when you’re hitting the “snooze” button, look at your calendar of life or at least think about your death for a moment (not the best way to start the day, eh?) and get your ass moving.
And don’t forget, if you had a shitty week, there is another empty box waiting for you to be filled. Fill it wisely. Best of all, fill it with life.
YOUR LIFE, not others.
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P. S. Since I’ve just lost my virginity in writing, I hope that you haven’t bled your eyes out (honestly, I am terrible with English tenses, but I promise to work on it!).
P. P. S. If you have any tips, I would appreciate if you would write them down in the comments. I promise to send you some karma points.
1. Waitbutwhy.com on Life in Weeks (with some cool interpretations of calendar) http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/life-weeks.html.
2. Waitbutwhy.com on Procrastination http://waitbutwhy.com/2013/10/why-procrastinators-procrastinate.html.