3 Reminders to Live with Intention and Urgency
Why the finite resource of time should urge you to start living now
When was the last time you planned to do something important, but pushed it off because you were tired, lacking motivation, or lazy? How often do you push off important personal tasks with the rationale that there’s always tomorrow, there’s plenty of time, and that it’s not a big deal to push it off?
I am definitely no exception to this behaviour. I would postpone my workouts because I’d be tired after a long day of work. I would push off working on my side project (including this post) because I’d be emotionally drained and unmotivated. Even worse, I would convince myself that I can plan my future another day because I would rather catch a Netflix show and have a beer on my couch.
As bleak as it sounds, our time here is temporary and finite
We often lose sight of the fact that every second that passes is a second we can’t get back. We tend to forget that the time we spend living our lives is finite and uncertain.
As someone who constantly falls into the habit of putting things off to the next day, I’ve listed out three simple, obvious facts of life to serve as reminders to myself of the importance of living with a sense of urgency, and making efforts to make every moment matter in my walk of life. Hopefully this can also help you reflect where and how your time is being spent in your day-to-day, and assess whether it is helping you carry out an intentional, purposeful life.
Reminder 1: We have less time than we think
As we work through our 9 to 5 jobs, going through our routines and errands, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that we are gradually growing older as every day, week, month passes by.
This is a fundamental fact of life, but how often does this reality catch our attention? When was the last time we stopped to think about the finite duration of our time on Earth, that we won’t be 20-something or 30-something forever, and that time will always tick forward whether we like it or not?
With a 9 to 5 job, it’s easy to push off personal priorities to the next day, week, month, or even year. We pour our physical and mental energy at work, and we want to be able to kick back, relax, and take the foot off the gas pedal for the rest of the evening.
I am no exception to this, and continue to fall to this habit today. Because I am tired, mentally drained, and stressed after a day of work, I would say to myself “There’s plenty of time to work on my side project / learn a new skill / plan for my future. I can afford to relax today and figure this out another day.”
But how much time do we actually have?
If we do the math, in a regular 9 to 5 career schedule, we only really have 4 hours everyday at the very most truly to ourselves (counting for 8 hours of sleep, 1 hour eating each meal, and 1 hour average total commute). For those that work longer hours, or have longer commutes, that time is shortened to 2, even 1 hour each day. This paints a picture of the scarcity and finiteness of time we truly have to ourselves and our goals, development, and purpose.
How do we spend those 2 to 4 hours everyday?
Are we being intentional with this time by doing things that further the development of our personal growth, pursuing our passions, exploring opportunities and creating adventures? Or are we sitting back, watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, being with people that don’t bring joy, or mindlessly doing things that we don’t understand the meaning behind?
Reminder 2: Tomorrow is not a certainty
Another fact of reality is this — there is no guarantee that tomorrow will come. Yet we take our health for granted and live our days as if we are invincible.
As bleak and morbid as that may sound, we’ve been accustomed to take tomorrow for granted. We often forget the fragility and delicacy of our livelihood.
Sure, we may be healthy and capable right now. We may have the privilege to dream big and chase our dreams. We should consider this is a blessing, not an expectation. Life can turn on its head at any given moment that can change circumstances where we no longer become healthy nor capable.
We only have so much control over our well-being. We hear countless stories of people who have lived perfectly healthy lives, only to be suddenly diagnosed with an unexpected disease. Or we hear of people who were minding their own business when a freak accident affects their safety and health.
The fact that we are healthy and capable should fuel us to be grateful of our ability to do, dream, and live. The gift of life often gets appreciated only when it’s been compromised or taken away, so we should continue to remind ourselves to treat it as a gift when we can.
Reminder 3: There is no undo, reset, or replay button
We tend to treat our lives as if we’re writing an essay on Google Docs. There are unlimited pages to write on, and we can always erase, revise, undo, and modify as we please. We feel compelled to word vomit our thoughts out, go off in tangents, and make spelling and grammar errors because we know we can always go back and fix it up later.
In reality, life is more comparable to writing a birthday or anniversary card to a loved one with a pen. We have very limited space to work with, we are writing on high-quality paper, and everything we write on the card stays on the card permanently. And you don’t have any backups — only one card.
There is no delete button, no undos, no “new document” option. The one card with two sides of blank space is all you get. It’s high-stakes, so you must be intentional and purposeful with every word you write on the card.
Sticking to this analogy, how much of this valuable, limited space are we filling with useless and meaningless words that don’t serve purpose or reflect what you truly want to portray? How much of the card is being used intentionally versus mindlessly?
Once we come to terms that everything we do, say, think, and act is permanent and leaves a lasting mark on this world, it’ll allow us to be much more deliberate and intentional with how we spend the limited amount of time that we are capable of spending.
There’s no doubt that these three facts about life are basic, common knowledge that we already know. We just tend to lose sight of these because of our often busy, stressful and distracting lifestyles.
Hopefully this can serve as a reminder (as it did for me) of the finiteness and uncertainty of life itself, and what a blessing it is to be capable and healthy enough to do whatever it is we feel like doing. I hope this brings a sense of gratitude which can spark the drive to continuously live with intention and purpose, prioritizing the things that are most important to us.
What are some other reminders that we can set for ourselves that can allow us to appreciate the gift of life and live with more intention? I would love to hear your feedback in the responses below.