The time line that might have been!

The time line that might have been! In the reading before you were asked to do a time line. This was to be a short version of the key points and milestones in your life. However, what if you had done the time line you might have had? The time line you might have had would center on the key decisions that you made and the alternate changes to you life if you had decided otherwise. For instance, what if you had not married? What if you had gone to school or what if you had not gone to school? What if you had not gone into the military or perhaps had gone into the military? The time line that might have been will look at all those decisions and opportunities that you passed up in favor of other opportunities and decisions. It is not a pure fantasy, since it is not a wishful timeline, but it is based on choices and events that you could have chosen. For instance, when I was eighteen, I went into the Air Force. I could have chosen to go to college. If I had made that choice, how would my time line have looked? Would I still have married at 21 and had a baby girl?

If you went back to your time line and thought about the key decision points, how might your life had changed at these points? This exercise is somewhat conjecture, because you can only guess how these changes “might” have changed your life. It is interesting to look at it from this perspective though as it helps us to reflect on the key decision points or our lives and what impact they have had or how our lives might have been different.

What key decisions have most impacted you life? Have they been mostly for the good? Would your life have been happier or more satisfactory with a different set of decisions? Are you positioned now to make better decisions in the future? Can you accept the fact that you can now choose a different life for yourself and do not have to go on with the one you have created so far?

Have you ever made a time line of your life?

Time lines are an interesting way of looking at life or the history of anything. I frequently use the idea to have my students introduce themselves in class. They create a time line of their life and then present it to other students. You simply put a zero at one end of a line, the present date at the other and fill it in with the most memorable points of your life. It certainly takes more time to do when you are 80 than when you are 18, but the degree of complexity depends on how many memorable events fit in between the beginning of your life and the present date. Different people will think different events are memorable.

It is often interesting to see what people think are the most memorable events. Among the younger students, one event is often “getting their first car.” As students age, it is getting married or having their first child. As we get older, the status things seem to take over, like jobs and promotions and finally it seems to become things like travel and places visited. I sometimes do mine when my students are doing theirs and over the past few years, I have noticed that my most “memorable events” are changing. Getting my Ph.D. which once seemed very memorable no longer seems so. Publishing my first book, does not rank up their anymore either. Doing a timeline reminds me of a charm bracelet. At first, you have few things to put on the bracelet, but after collecting more and more charms, you eventually run out of space.

Time lines are an economical way to look at your life. In a way, they are like a fast scrapbook of your life. Have you ever done a time line of your life? What would your time line look like? Take a piece of paper today and do your own time line. What are the most memorable events of your life? What time line would you like presented at a special ceremony if you were the guest of honor?

What if time stood still?

Time stood still! When I was young there was a movie called “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” It was about an alien and his robot partner who came to earth. They came to warn us that we needed to stop our wars and our petty squabbles or we would be destroyed as a menace to the universe. Whenever I think of this old movie, I think of the phrase “and time stood still.” I am not quite sure of the connection anymore. However, what if time did stand still for a day?

What if for one day, all of our petty bigotry and animosities towards other people, other religions, other countries and other political persuasions would all stop. What would the world be like if one day; no one was killed, injured, raped or assaulted in any act of violence. What would the newspapers, TV’s and radios say at the end of the day? At what point in the day, do you think anyone would start to notice the difference? What would the world be like without violence for one day? Would this day be remembered as the “day TIME stood still?” Would we feel any different the next day or would we just start the violence all over again?

Do you want to know the secret for "making" time?

“I am making time today”. You have all heard this expression and no doubt used it yourself. Have you thought about what it means? Is it accurate to say we are making time? Is time like a piece of furniture, product or some baked good that we can assemble or create out of nothing? If it were, would we be able to store it or reuse it? It would be wonderful, if whenever we needed some time, we could go to our kitchen, mix some ingredients and make some time. How long do you think time would keep? Do you suppose we could refrigerate it?

Such nonsense you are thinking. Making time is not like baking a pie. Making time is different. When you make time, you simply put some other things aside and that’s how you make time. You forego some other activities, opportunities or tasks. However, then you are not really making time, you are simply re-ordering time or re-prioritizing your time. It would be more accurate to say “today I am forgoing some activities so that I can” (add whatever you would rather do). I am making time to play with my children, to work on my drawing, to help my friend move, to spend some time meditating.

It is not easy to “make time.” It is very difficult to re-order our schedules and to put aside some of the things we must do and make room for new things. Making time is a little like making room in a cluttered attic. While you could throw some things out, it is easier to keep trying to stuff more things in and not throw anything out. Maybe that’s why we are all busy. We are unable to do a good job of “making time” by throwing some old things out. We don’t do a good job of prioritizing.

What if you could throw more old things out? How many old time wasters and useless time activities do you have? What could you throw out today to make more time? If you could re-order all of your time priorities, what would your life be like? Could you just try it for a day? See what happens. Take at least one piece of time out of your attic today or this week and throw it away.

Are you a slow or fast lover? How does time affect your love life?

Do you remember the song that went: “I’m a slow lover?” In the movies, all love making seems to go on forever, despite the fact that it really occupies only about 1 or 2 minutes of screen time. However, the lovers generally start in the late evening and are still making love in the twilight hours of morning. Well, love making is still one of those things that seem to be best going slow. How many people want a “fast” lover? Of course, there are those days and times when fast love making has some merit. Nevertheless, what is less conducive to romance than watching the clock? Even fast love making requires a loss of time consciousness.

Making love by the clock has not become fashionable yet. Our chronic excuse of “no time” does not play well when it comes to love making. However, love making is something that as we get older we often discover that we must schedule. When we lead a hectic and busy life, some things easily get left out. There may be psychological imperatives for love making, but seldom are the physical imperatives so urgent that time cannot be a barrier to a good love life. As with all else in a relationship, time, money and love making must all find their proper balance.

Karen and I have been married now for over 20 years. A while ago we attended a weekend Marriage Encounter. There were 23 couples at our weekend who ranged from engaged and due to be married in two weeks to one couple that was married for 42 years. I was somewhat skeptical about the value of a weekend talking about love and romance. After all, I have never been a shy person and I have always thought I was open to any idea and discussion. What I found really opened my horizons. Despite the weekly family talks with Karen, we both noted that there were many aspects of our lives that we had not shared. Some of this was due to time constraints. Problems seemed to dominate our weekly agenda and we seldom had time to talk about the “other” stuff. Stuff like how we like to do things sexually and how we like to be touched or held or talked to. We have now decided to balance our “problem” time with more discussion about ourselves and life in general.

Do you have a balance in your love life? Do you spend enough time nurturing your love life? Are you able to find the time to take love slowly? How do you keep your balance in this area? What would it take for you to find the balance that you need to have a more satisfactory love life?

Why do we go slower when we try to go fast?

Where have all the Minute Men gone? The term “Minute Men” refers to those revolutionaries during the American War of Independence who purportedly could be ready to fight in a minutes notice. If you think about that, it is quite a remarkable feat. Can you imagine a soldier in our armies today getting ready to fight with one minutes notice? Can you imagine anybody of today doing anything with one minutes notice? Getting ready to go out to dinner – 2 hours, Getting ready to go to work – 1 hour, Getting ready to go camping – 4 hours. Maybe getting ready to go shopping might be accomplished in one minute, but the shopping itself would be good for ½ day.

We talk about speed and the fast pace of life, but it takes us longer to do everything. Even instant microwave meals take four or five minutes to cook; and do you know anyone who really lets them sit for two to three minutes after they are done? We are in more of a hurry to do things, but we really cannot do anything very fast. When I was in the service, our motto was “hurry up to wait.” We are always hurrying around only to face gridlock on the freeway, traffic jams, crashed IT systems, lines at the checkout counters and unexpected cancellations.

There is pure irony in the fact that as we speed up, we actually slow down. I once took a course in motorcycle cornering at the Elkhart Lake Speedway sponsored by Keith Code’s Superbike School. Keith who was a former racer and highly respected for his training had a mantra. It went like this: “You must go slow, before you can go fast.” I have since been able to apply that mantra to other areas of my life. If you do not have the right technique or the right attitude, haste will only make waste.

What if we had a One Minutes-Person Society (open to men and women)? Would you join? What might an organization of people brag about being able to do in one minute? What do you do in one minute that you could brag about? Why?

When was the last time you wasted some time?

I am just sitting here wasting some time. How evil! How unthinkable! How thoughtless of me! The idea of “wasting time” has a pejorative connotation. Of course, since time is one of the most precious commodities in society today, it has become almost criminal to waste time. (Refer to the reflection earlier where I spoke about the time police). However, what if we venerated and exalted people who really knew how to waste time? What if time wasters were the real heroes of our society? Can you imagine a group of people who have learned how to ignore time clocks and the other mandates of a culture driven and obsessed by time? What would these “time wasters” be like? Perhaps such time wasters might teach us how to be less driven, more relaxed and to take time less seriously. Why worry about tomorrow when it is hard enough to do anything about today?

All too many of us do not know how to relax. Check out the number of books on Time Management that are listed on Thousands of books and we are more and more stressed out. Indeed, stress is one of the most common problems in our world. We see it reflected in alcoholism, road rage, domestic violence and heart attacks. If we were less obsessed with time, would we have all of these problems? What if we really learned to waste some time instead of always trying to cut corners and save time? Maybe the time wasters of today should be held up role models. I would like to see studies comparing people who were stressed versus people who were less stressed. I wonder which group would be healthier and happier. I would bet the less stressed out group would not be as concerned with time management or wasting time.

Do you ever allow yourself to waste some time? Can you relax if you waste some time or do you feel guilty about your extravagance? Do you try to work harder later to make up for your wasted time? When was the last time you patted yourself on the back for “wasting” some time? Take an hour and waste it today. Can you do that? Why not? What gets in the way of your just taking some time and doing nothing?

What are your rules about "time?"

“Time is one of the four key rules. We must all set priorities.” I found this bit of authoritative advice in some guide to time management. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of books giving us advice on how to manage our time. I admit to being obsessed with time (hence this blog) but I would like to think I am not a slave to it. I have never thought of time as a “rule” or that I always need to be setting priorities. I probably set more priorities than I need to and I probably have too many rules in my life already.

Following advice from others and not thinking through our own needs, wants and desires can often lead us to become mindless automatons. As such, we become slaves to the opinions of the “experts.” Those noted seers who have all the right answers for others. However, have you noticed how often the so-called experts change their minds? If we blindly follow the advice of others, without applying our own tests and challenges, we risk losing our creative selves and our independence. This is not to say that we should not be open to opinions or advice or should not seek outside counsel. I would be the last person to advise you as such since I highly value the knowledge and wisdom that others have. Nevertheless, I like the Zen saying that: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” The message I get from this saying is to process all knowledge through my own filter and to not accept anything blindly.

Can you take all advice on the subject of time and then filter it, process it and ask yourself, “will it make my life easier and happier or will it make my life more stressful and less satisfying?” What rules about times are you following that help you? What rules about time that you have are not helpful? What keeps you from discarding the unhelpful rules? Will life be any better for you if you hang onto these rules?

Are you a night owl or a lark? How do you greet the day?

“Its only 4 AM!” Says Karen in what must seem the middle of the nigh to her. “Sorry, I am awake.” Say I. The former dialogue has often occurred between Karen and me. I tend to be a morning person. I love to get up early and begin my day. Karen is a night person. She loves to sleep late and stay up late. She cannot understand that anyone would want to get up at 4, 5, 6, 7 or even 8 AM. Thus, on those occasions when I arise earlier than she can conceive anyone wanting to, I often hear: “What time is it? You’re not really getting up!” Well, I am getting up early and I love it.

Sometimes it is just so much fun to be up before the world starts to move and no one is out and about. Maybe it is because I love to watch the sun rise or maybe it is because I love to do things and can hardly wait for a new day to start that will be full of new adventures and exciting things to accomplish. The way one views the world may have a lot to do with how one greets the day. On the other hand, maybe it is how one views time. If time is precious, then starting out early means I can make the best use of it and that I will have extra time to do what needs to be done. Many would say that it is simply genetic. Some of us are larks, some of us are night owls, and it is all in our constitution. Night owls love the night time and greet the day with less than enthusiasm. Larks sing early in the morning but go to bed shortly after sunset.

How do you greet the day? Can you hardly wait to get up and start your day? Do you start your day slow or do you start it with a bang? Have you ever been up at 4 AM and started your day off? Would you rather wait until 10 AM and then start off slowly but surely? Do you honor your style or do you try to fit into a mold that others want you to?

Do you value time or image?

Rocks and Zen and Time! Thirty years ago, I belonged to a Zen Monastery where twice a week I would go to sit Zen and meditate. Some of the people lived there and others were commuters like me. The master was a renowned Japanese Zen expert and we all felt he must truly be enlightened. One of the women who lived there told me that once when the master was going to travel back to Japan he asked her what he could bring back for her. She told the master: “I really love ancient and old objects and could you bring me back something very ancient.” When he returned, he had a present for her wrapped in a package and tied with a bow. She was very excited and could hardly wait to open it. When she removed the present from the package, her excitement dropped as all she found was a rock. She looked at the Zen master with great disappointment and all he said was “I thought you wanted something very ancient. This rock is more than 100,000 years old.” She then understood the message that he was trying to impart to her. Most of us are like this young woman. We think we know the real value of things, but often we are only concerned with images, names and brands.

Rocks are not valued by many people but they are truly old and ancient. Rocks are proof that time itself is not the major factor that decides the value of an object. The real value of anything is not in the name, the image or the age. Antiques are valuable because they evoke nostalgic memories or because they remind of us something that we associate with a better life. Time is one of the most precious things in the world, however we never realize the value of time until it is in short supply. How many of us wish we could only live a moment over again or retrieve some moment in time that was ill spent?

Does the law of supply and demand govern the value of time for you or does your time conform to rules of branding and imaging? How many people do you know who love to express their importance by being ever so busy and never having any time? Why do you value time? What in time creates value for you? Would you know a gem from a rock when it comes to time?

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