What do you do with "left-over time?"

I have some “left-over” time today. Like left-over food, if I don’t use it, it will probably spoil. You cannot save left-over time too long, since something will inevitably come up to take it away from you. We get left-over time when we finish something sooner than we thought we would. I may budget four hours for a project but instead it only takes three. I now have 1 hour left-over. If I don’t save this time, I will surely be able to use it up right away. Left-overs are one of life’s many blessings to us. Do you know anybody that does not like left-overs? It is so much fun to go back down to the refrigerator after all the company has left and find left-over turkey or chicken or a roast to pick on.

Left-over time can be equally wonderful. We all love to have time left to spend on something that we did not plan or did not anticipate. It is all too rare these days to find ourselves with left-over time. Of course, if you get to the airport and find out that your plane was delayed, you might be at a loss as to what to do with your time. At this point, there is no refrigerator to store your left-over time in. Many people plan for such delays and creatively find uses for left-over time. Much like some good cooks can make more interesting second meals out of left-overs, some people find very novel ways to spend their left-over time. Take a trip to an airport sometime and look at all the ways that people spend their left-over time.

Left-over food always seems to taste better when you eat it then when it was cooked. Do you think “left-over time” gets better when you can put it away and bring it out later to use? Does time age well or does it go stale very quickly? How long can you keep left-over time? When do you ever have “left-overs” for time? If you finish something today in less time than you had anticipated, what will you do with your left-over time today? Are you creative with your left-over time? Maybe we all need to start finding a better way to have “left-overs” for time and more creative ways to spend it?

How do you handle your times of restlessness?

Restless times are those times when we just can’t seem to be comfortable. Sometimes they happen when we are nervous, sometimes when we are worried and other times when we are just too tired too sleep or relax. I often get restless when I am on a long plane trip. I get restless just before I am going to go on vacation or before an important presentation or training session. Sometimes, I will get up early because I can’t sleep. I have even been known to go out and jog at 11 PM. It is easier to deal with restlessness when you are home because you have the advantage of having familiarity with your surroundings. On vacations, I get very restless. I start to miss being at work and my familiar routines.

A large part of restlessness may have to do with having less control over things that are happening to us. They say the body has a certain wisdom. Many times we choose not to listen to the “wisdom” of our body. There is usually a price paid for this mistake. Restlessness may be a way that our bodies are trying to tell us something. Discovering the underlying worry or problem can be one solution. Meditation can be a good solution but it takes quite a bit of discipline to meditate when we are restless. Our vast pharmacological cornucopia is more than ready to sedate us or medicate us with pills and prescriptions. The problem with this solution (not to mention drug side effects) is that it numbs our bodies and minds to the true cause of our problem. Taking a drug for “restless” leg syndrome may mask the fact that our legs are crying for exercise or some stimulation. Conversely, they may just need some rest. Do you know anyone on a long plane trip who does not get symptoms of “restless” leg syndrome? However, we all want quick fixes and the medicine cabinet is increasingly full of them. Beware the price you pay though!

Are you ever restless? What makes you restless? What can you do about it? Do you look for the quick fix? What price do you pay when you take a quick fix? Pay attention today and notice if and when you are restless. When you are restless, what could your body be trying to tell you? What are some things that you could do to better address your restlessness than going to the medicine cabinet?

Are you older or bolder?

“But time makes you bolder” are lines from a song by the rock group Fleetwood Mac. But does it? We have a saying in motorcycling that “There are bold riders and there are old riders, but there are no ‘old’ bold riders.” I find that as I grow older, I am getting more cautious in many areas of my life. When we are young, we think we will live forever. When we grow old, we are much more aware of our mortality. We no longer think we are invincible. We have suffered broken bones and broken hearts. We realize that few things will last forever. This makes us more cautious. Once you find that fire burns, you are less likely to stick your hand in it. There are many things in life that burn. The older we get, the (hopefully) wiser we become.

As with anything, we can be overly cautious. Age can bring wisdom and vigilance. However, excessive vigilance and caution can make us pass up many wonderful opportunities. Live cannot be lived to the fullest strictly by observing caution. I tell my students that everything in life involves risk. We all must be risk takers to live. There are two types of risk takers. One is smart, these are the risk minimizers. The other is foolish. These are the risk maximizers. For example, a risk maximizer does not wear a helmet while riding. A risk minimizer always wears a helmet when riding. You cannot be successful in business without taking risks either. However, you have a choice between being a risk minimizer or a risk maximizer. A smart business person tries to minimize risk.

The question for all of us as we age is this: “Where do we need to be “bolder” and where is it smart to be more cautious?” I would hate to think that growing old meant I had to give up motorcycling, skiing, skydiving, scuba diving or any of the other sports that I enjoy. Nevertheless, I would like to think I am more cautious in each of these activities and that I no longer take the same risks I did when I was younger and bolder. Where in your life have you become more cautious? Where have you become too cautious? Are there areas where you need to take “more” risk? How about areas where you need to take fewer risks?

Do you have time for another chance?

“Run Lola Run” was a fascinating movie about the subject of time and chance in our lives. In the movie, a young woman gets to keep replaying the same twenty minutes during which time she must find and bring 100,000 Deutschmarks to her boyfriend before he robs a grocery store. If he does not come up with the money, he will forfeit his life to the thief whose money he lost. If he robs the store, he will be killed or become an outlaw. It is up to Lola to use the twenty minutes to get the money and bring it to her boyfriend. When she is not successful the first time, the clock is reset and she gets to try again. Each time the clock is reset, the movie starts out with Lola madly running, as she is fully aware that she has only twenty minutes to save her boyfriend. Each time, you think that it is a replay but you will soon notice that something different happens each time leading to a different result. There are three or four “retakes” and finally she gets it “right.” She obtains the money and saves her boyfriends life.

The story is engrossing as we want Lola to succeed. However each time she fails, it makes us wonder if it is really in the cards. But Lola does not give up. Many of us think that this is just the movies. In life we never get a second chance. We cannot reply the mistakes we made. At least that is how many of us feel. In reality, we replay our mistakes many times. Do you know anyone who had an unhappy or wronged life on the basis of only one event? When you notice someone going to jail for some crime, it is seldom that they do so for the “first” offense. If we are not patient, compassionate or happy, it is generally not the result of one episode of mistreatment. Similarly, our lives do not have to continue down the same track. As the saying goes “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

What in your life, do you wish you could replay? Where have you given up and not taken the second, third or even fourth try? What would happen today if you could play it over and keep trying until you got it right? What might be different in your life now? Is it too late, or have you simply given up? Perhaps not all things can be changed, but there are many that can. What can you find in your life that you can and will start to replay?

What role does Father Time play in your life?

Father Time – the personification of time as a bearded man of advanced years, usually wearing a robe and sometimes carrying a scythe or an hourglass. Some say he is derived from the Greek God Saturn or Chronos. I would like to know why he is Father Time and not Mother Time. Why does he not have a female companion on his journeys? Have you ever noticed that many of the Greek virtues are feminine? However, time is always thought of as masculine. While we speak of Mother Earth we are led by Father Time. Time is the progenitor of life. Without time nothing happens. Eggs would not develop; life would not spring forth to grow. Thus Father Time becomes a key parent to all life. Just as Mother Earth nurtures life, Father Time gives life or at least provides the key elements for life to grow. Life can be seen as requiring both the masculine and feminine elements. The female elements are embodied in nurturance and support. The masculine elements are action oriented driven by time and tasks.

What are the implications of this view of time as masculine? Who is Father Time a father to? What parental guidance or parental role does he play in our daily lives? One might ask what role you as a parent play with your children in respect to time. Do you get them up in the morning to go to school? Do you let them sleep in on the weekends? Do you make sure they get their chores done on time? What are the parental responsibilities that you transmit to your children in respect to time? What do your expectations teach your children about time? What should you be teaching your children about time?

Is the best of life yet to be?

“Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.” This was a poem that my first wife found when we were just married. I loved the poem and in some sense it embodied what I felt married life should be about. There were many times within our marriage where I thought about this poem. We ended in divorce after 16 years. I was never sure why the marriage ended. We fought, loved, laughed and suffered through ups and downs with money but none of these things ended the marriage. I once added up all my theories on why the marriage ended and I came up with 32 theories. Many years later, I came up with a new theory and decided that all the old theories were bunk. For years we saw each other and I considered my former wife a friend. However, we have since drifted apart and for perhaps the same unfathomable reasons that the marriage failed, the friendship has since faded away.

I am left with the poem and while I still think about it a great deal, it now is more related to my second marriage and the hopes and dreams I have for it. What a wonderful thought that we can share life together with another person and expect that the best of life is still to come. I am facing old age and looking towards the last years of my life. Yet, I can more easily believe the words of this poem today then when I was young. I now realize that relationships are not made in heaven, they are made on earth. Relationships are like flowers and gardens. They must be nurtured and pampered and tended daily with loving care. There will be weeds and dry days and floods and tornados. Rabbits and other critters will intrude on your garden and eat your flowers. A garden is not fixed in stone. Each year requires renewed effort to bring out the best in it. Our relationships are a lot like gardens. If you continue working on your relationships, they will only get better and better. If you think that your garden will take care of itself and never need replanting or watering, you will soon find that your garden is nothing but weeds and stones.

Do you have faith that your relationships with your friends and loved ones can be better or do you just take them for granted? Do you believe that your life would get better and better if you were improving more each day? Do you think your life might also be like a garden? What could you do to improve your relationships or your life today? What challenges could you take today to make your life more interesting or more fun? What parts of your relationships with your loved ones need watering or replanting? What weeds do you need to remove in your relationships?

Do you have a birth statement?

A birth statement! Have you ever created one? In some cultures, it is customary to make a birth statement before a baby is born. The mother sets down her values and preferences regarding the expected birth of her baby. In other cultures, a birth statement may be a set of prophecies for a newborn child regarding its future. Parents, friends and relatives gather together to wish the newborn health and happiness. Unfortunately the key party to these proceedings will have no clue as to what is going on. However, imagine, if the newborn were more articulate and could speak for him or herself? Well, with little experience of the world, it would seem very difficult for the child to express any relevant desires.

I suppose a newborn could continue to wish for a good mother, a reasonable amount of food on a daily basis and a great deal of warmth and comfort. Beyond these basic needs, it would take more experience of the outside world before anyone could really know what they wanted or expected out of life. Indeed, our wants and expectations are constantly undergoing change throughout our entire lives. Can you think of anything more dynamic or changeable then your own wants and needs over your lifetime? Things we want today, we may come to regret owning or purchasing or obtaining tomorrow. If only foresight were as good as hindsight. Nevertheless, there is no ignoring the role that experience plays in our lives. Reflection and contemplation will only take you so far. To really understand life, you must live it. You must participate in it.

So what would you like said about you when you were born? We are often asked to think about what we would like to have said about ourselves when we die. However, if you had a chance to make a speech when you were born or to have someone make a speech for you, what would you like said about you at this time? What prophesies, dreams or hopes would you want to have expressed about your life? Pretend you are making this speech for yourself. Jot down a few notes and read them to yourself. Then read them to someone who cares about you. What were your reactions? What were their reactions? How would your life be different if you had achieved theses expectations? Would your life be much different? How? What changes could you still make that would help you to achieve your birth statement?

Are you an ant or a grasshopper?

The ant and the grasshopper is a story by Aesop, (620–560 BC), a slave and story-teller who lived in Ancient Greece. Most Baby Boomers would be familiar with this story. It involves a colony of ants and a grasshopper. The ants are depicted as very industrious and constantly going about their work of collecting and storing food. The grasshopper just wants to jump and play all summer. He is usually seen with a fiddle and dancing. The grasshopper thinks the ants are foolish since they are working and slaving in the warm summer sun when they could be frolicking and enjoying the great weather. The ants are looking to the future. They are thinking about the cold winter that is only months away. The grasshopper’s only care is for today. He is thinking short-term.

Inevitably the winter comes. The grasshopper is ill prepared. He has stored no food nor can he find any on the cold frozen ground. He goes to the ants for food. They scorn his solicitations and advise him that next time (if he survives) instead of playing; he should be working and saving up. This story reminds me of the situation that many baby boomers now face with retirement benefits. There are many of us who have spent, spent, spent and never saved enough to have a decent retirement. Now when others are retiring we will need to continue to work. This may not be a big problem unless you do not have the health to continue to work.

I often wish I had been more like the ant when I was younger. I realized somewhat late in life the value of saving. Today, I try to balance more between saving and spending. It is really a question of balance. Perhaps the ants would enjoy life more and be more generous if they could take a few days off to play each summer. The grasshopper should learn to balance his desire for fun with some thought about his future. The Greeks got it right a few thousand years ago when they said: “All things in moderation.” We need to balance living for the short-term with living for the long-term. One saying I like is “spend your time as though you were going to die tomorrow, but spend your money as though you were going to live forever.” In other words, use time for the short-term but save your money for the long-term.” Savings is a form of deferring our standard of living for the future. Many people live only for today and spend as much as they can each day. When the future comes or a rainy day they have nothing to fall back on.

Do you balance the short-term with the long-term needs of life? Do you put money aside for a rainy day? Do you have a good financial plan? Are you thinking about saving for the future? If not, when do you plan to start? What keeps you from putting money away? Are you living too much for today?

How flexible are you?

“Gather you rosebuds while ye may”, by the English poet Robert Herrick. This is a little poem we are all familiar with from childhood or early school. It seems to be telling us that youth is the best time to catch a spouse or to accomplish some things and that if we wait too long, “we may forever tarry.” However, today, we see many people waiting longer to get married and many more couples choosing not to marry. Robert Herrick’s quote may be less germane and even seem antiquated to the present generation. The emphasis today is on speed and action. Delay and reflection is often seen as weakness rather then strength. We live in a society that appears to value youth and vitality more than maturity and wisdom. This is not to say that youth and speed cannot be assets.

What is the real value of youth? It seems to me, it is more than just a time to marry, get things done, find a spouse, take action or even see the world. Youth is a time of flexibility. It is a time when patterns have not been set in stone. It is a time to explore and look at options. Granted, you do not have to be young to do these things. However, as we age, many of us become more set in our ways. We have learned many likes and dislikes. Age can bring inflexibility or even ruts from habits that are well worn.

Data on vehicle accidents seem to point to the relative advantages and disadvantages of age and youth. Data for accidents show peaks for youth and the elderly and declines in between the two extremes of age. The young are brash and lack experience but have great reflexes while the elderly have the experience but lack the timing and reflexes.

Thus, youth is less about gathering rosebuds and more about experimentation and creativity. Can we keep these options open as we age? To some degree, the answer is yes. Much of creativity and flexibility is a state of mind (the body is a different issue).The key is to find ways to continue flexing your mind and spirit. Ask yourself today “In what areas, have I become settled and complacent?” When was the last time I tried something really new or went somewhere new? When was the last time I took a class or made a new friend? Can you still go out and find some rosebuds or have you given up the quest? What would it take for you to start something new this week or this month? What have you always wanted to do and never started? Why not start today or this week?

What have you forgot to remember to forget?

I forgot to remember to forget her,
I can’t seem to get her off my mind.
I thought I’d never miss her,
But I found out somehow
I think about her almost all the time. (Sung by Elvis Presley)

I always loved this song by Elvis, perhaps for the interesting twist to the lyrics. Have you ever not been able to forget something? I am sure we all have things we would like to forget. Sometimes, it seems we think about them all the time. Often, ironically, it is only time that helps us to forget them. However if we keep rehashing the thoughts in our mind, we never let time work. We are constantly refreshing the thoughts and allowing them to be present and timely. How then, do we get them out of our mind; if even time will not erase them? One thing I do is use a prayer to help push the unwanted ideas or thoughts out. As soon as the undesirable idea or issue arises, I repeat a meditation or prayer which replaces the idea. I have found this to work quite well. There are many different types of prayers in all religions. I have a book titled: “Prayers That Avail Much” by Germaine Copeland. This book has many prayers for all occasions and can be quite helpful. Try buying a prayer book in whatever faith you practice and see how prayer can help to keep your mind fresh and peaceful.

What thoughts do you have that you want to get out of your mind? How often do they reoccur? Say a prayer today and see if it helps? The thoughts may reoccur but the meditation or prayer will help you to forget.

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