Time is running out

I keep thinking about demands on my time and who makes them. Of course those demands usually conflict and I find myself trying to find a way to balance these competing demands and answer the ones that matter most.

When we build our lives around ‘what’s due’ we sacrifice our agency to the priorities and urgencies of everyone else.

Seth Godin’s recent post titled “Missed it by that much” speaks to these kinds of challenges and how we can forget that time is running out for us to do things that matter most.

We sometimes like to think that we control our destinies and decide our fates but how often is that actually the case? We have the illusion of choice within shrinking parameters we don’t create. Where does that leave us? Probably not where we think we are, at all.

Time is running out for you to become the person you’ve decided to be, to make the difference you seek to make, to produce the work you know you’re capable of.

In the background there is a nagging feeling that time is running out for us. We spend all our time trying to satisfy everyone else’s demands (probably motivated by what they want to achieve given the time available to them) and rarely satisfying our own.

That is, assuming we even know what we most want to do with the limited time we have available in this life.

Perhaps, as we get a clearer sense of what we most want to do (even if it is just today, this week or this year) one way to reconcile all these seemingly incompatible tugs is to find work that others need and will compensate us for in ways that we can meet others’ needs.

It sounds a bit obvious but our model for employment tends to emphasize employers’ needs over employees’. The result tends to be a lot of people doing work they don’t particularly enjoy, largely in the hope that they have enough time off to do the things that matter most before they die.

It’s a little crazy, when you think about it. All that time we spend waiting for the few moments we really want to get to and then we are so often too exhausted or frustrated to enjoy them or make them as meaningful as we’d intended.

What might help is if there was a closer collaboration between employers and their employees to find ways employees could draw on their passions and make more distinctive and sustainable contributions. It’s probably a bit of a fantasy because it requires everyone’s expectations to sync and they rarely do.

Conventional wisdom is divided on what to do. Either you need to just find a decent job with a decent salary and live for the weekends (and hope there are more of them than not) or you should pursue your passion and wait for the money to follow.

The first option is pretty depressing, albeit practical. I also wonder how much it tends to shorten lives simply because of the layers and layers of sadness and the growing sense that you are wasting your potential to make a better contribution to this world before you pass on from it.

The second option sounds great. It appeals to our desire to find fulfillment and joy in our day jobs that feeds our souls and make our lives that much more meaningful. The trouble with this approach is that there aren’t any clear guidelines for how to trigger the cashflow and you still have bills to pay, mouths to feed, that sort of thing.

So, that leaves us walking a bit of a metaphorical tight-rope where we seek the answer to the question “What is most meaningful in this life?” while earning a salary; trying to figure out to merge the two and do all the other stuff that counts.

While all of that is happening, time is running out.


Originally published at pauljacobson.me on February 15, 2017.