Don’t ever wish away time.
That’s some advice a nursing home social worker gave herself during one of my speaking programs the other day. I’d asked the audience to imagine having an opportunity to sit bedside with their 99-year-old self. What advice would they receive from their more wise and experienced mentor?
After giving them a few moments to reflect, I invited them to share. That’s when one woman advised, “Don’t ever wish away time.”
What a great piece of advice. And yet we do it all the time, don’t we?
“I wish this shift would get over.”
“I wish this airplane would take off already.”
“I wish school would start so the kids can get out of my hair so I can get some real work done.”
I’ll often catch myself with the urge to wish Lucy was at different stages of development. Sometimes the intent is to avoid something negative: I can’t wait until she can change herself.
But sometimes the intent comes from looking forward to something good: I can’t wait ’till we can go sledding together. Or paint pictures. Or enjoy the zoo. (Little is more anticlimactic than when an 800-pound tiger walks inches away from you and your six-month-old daughter decides an empty pink stroller is more interesting to look at.)
Kim and I decided early on that we wanted to resist the urges to think this way, and I’m happy to say, for the most part, we’ve done a pretty good job. Spend too much time “wishing away time” and all you get is a pile of regret when you look back at all the hours you frittered away.
Even in this terrible economy, time is still our most precious resource. It’s possible to regain wealth. It’s even possible (sometimes) to regain our health. But it is completely impossible to regain even one second of lost time.
It’s easy to see why we wouldn’t want to fast forward through Lucy’s infancy — we run the risk of missing out on (and not fully appreciating) the irresistible baby babble and heart-melting toothless smiles. But who can argue with someone who wants their shift to be over so they can go home and be with their kids?
Every minute is precious, even when we’re in the middle of a less than ideal situation. Every minute wasted wishing for some moment in the future is just that — wasted. Even the most frustrating or boring or painful situations can be used for something good.
I have a friend who works in a restaurant. His goal is to become a professional speaker, but the restaurant pays the bills while he gets his business off the ground. Some of his co-workers complain about being there and talk about all the things they’d rather be doing. Instead of sulking during his work hours, wishing for his shift to end, my friend uses the time to listen to success-oriented audio programs. Every time he leaves work, he walks away a better person and his business has a better chance of blasting off.
I hate going to the dentist. When I’m in the chair getting a tooth drilled, I use that time to meditate and pray. Of course I’d rather be somewhere (almost anywhere) else, but instead of wishing that the appointment was over, I focus on things I am grateful for. I brainstorm ideas for projects I’m working on. When I walk out of the dentist’s office, I’m calmer and more focused than I was when I walked in. (And — bonus! — my teeth are in better shape.)
The social worker’s advice to herself was spot on, and wisdom we can all benefit from. Normally, I’m a big fan of wishing. It’s a vital part of maintaining a childlike spirit. I guess more than anything, this post is just a reminder to be careful what you wish for.
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Photo by olivander