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
Vi Bergum says
Thank you for sharing this information. I have a very active mind & I
have always used every minute to plan, design, think & PRAY. A friendly reminder like you gave may make people use that wonderful brain the
Lord has given them. If people have extra time they can make cards, phone calls, visit nursing homes & assisted living facilities. write their own memoir & I could name countless more. Many of these require preplanning so idle time comes in more than handy no matter where we might by. Have a Great & Blessed Day. Vi Bergum
Thanks for the comment! And thanks for sharing some other great ideas for making good use of idle or boring time!
Great post! I think the biggest one is “I wish it was Friday.” I remember wishing that in my previous job. Even as I said that to myself I felt that wishing away time was not a good approach. I think we need to re-think of the way we approach different challenges in our lives. You are so right that wishing away time is a bad habit and one that we need to change.
Great point Tim! So many people who are working for the weekend often wish it was Friday. Wanting to speed through weeks like that leaves us with chunks of wasted moments.
Your presentation was probably the best one at that conference! I am one of the social workers who “passed” the Adultitis quiz! I think that Kim and you are doing a great job living life! Keep it up!
Have a great day!
P.S. Don’t forget to work on your “Ta Da List” instead of your “To Do List”
You are too kind. I LOVE speaking to groups like yours.
I also really enjoyed the idea of the “Ta Da” list. But I had to ask — since I din’t get to at the time — what does the “ta da” list idea mean to you? Kim and I were talking about it and actually came up with two different interpretations. I’d love to hear your take.
To me the “Ta Da” List means look what I have accomplished today (whether it’s a lot or a little); not look what I still have to finish. Sometimes the work around the house or yard needs to be put on pause while we go for a motorcycle ride or out with friends!
How did you guys interpret it?
Another interpretation we came up with was to focus on putting stuff on your list that would actually make you say “ta da” when you finished it. Obviously, we all have stuff we have to do that we’d rather not, but the point is to take a good hard look at making sure the stuff we’re spending our time on is worthwhile, meaningful, and invigorating.
That reminds me of a story my mom relayed to me a few months ago, about one of my grandnieces struggling to remove one of her socks. The first one had come off rather easily, but the second one for some reason was proving a more difficult task. When the sock finally came off, however, my grandnieces proclaimed triumphantly, “Got It!” Which I believe can be interpreted as, “Ta Da!”
I liked what you said about Lucy because that’s what hits home for me.
With Jesse, now 9 months, I find I actually have to restrain myself against waking him up in the middle of the night just to feed him, hold him, cuddle him.
I feel like encouraging him to sleep through the night is giving him permission to grow up.
I don’t want it.
Previous experience has taught me that this time will go by so fast. Soon he’ll be two, telling me, “I do it by myself”.
I can’t find my pause button.
Mel, if you find the “Pause Button,” let me know. I’d like to borrow it.
Re-reading this poast a couple months later, I am remembering a favorite saying of a great-grandmother: “If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a fry.” I appreciate that saying as an “adult” more than I did as a child.