Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same goes for the actions of life and our emotional reactions to these situations. Our initial reactions are likely the ones with which we’re most comfortable or familiar. Why? Because they are the easiest reactions, and after enough experiences, they are also predictable. What if, we took a pause in these scenarios to consider what the equal and opposite reaction would be? Even if that equal and opposite reaction doesn’t seem to be the appropriate response given the circumstance, perhaps it succeeds in creating a little bit of space between you and the emotion being felt so intensely. Perhaps neither extreme, the intensity of your initial reaction and the consideration of its equal and opposite, would be a rational response. Perhaps somewhere in the grey, where the vast majority of our rational emotional real estate resides, is the appropriate response. How many interactions on a given day could benefit from this small consideration? If only we pause to steal a breath.
The past imperfect tense can be summed up by the phrase: “I used to….” It’s typically said of things we can still do, but for some reason it feels like an impossibility at the present moment or in the foreseeable future. I used to be an athlete – I used to love to paint – I used to play an instrument – I used to love going to museums – I used to be in shape. Whatever your “used to” is, if you really wanted it, you would find time for it, but we are brilliant at making excuses aren’t we? If we spent as much time being proactive and productive as we do rationalizing why we cannot do something, the world would likely be better off. We have one go at this thing called life, and yet we choose to let time go by as if it’s an endless resource. Consider how much time we waste. If you’re honest with yourself, how much time do you spend on average each day choosing not to be productive? Even if it’s not spent in one cluster of time but rather spread out into minutes at a time, how much would it add up to? For sake of argument, let’s say it’s two hours (30 minutes on social media, one hour on Netflix, and 30 minutes down a YouTube rabbit hole). That’s 14 hours per week, which is 60.6 hours per month, which is 728 hours per year. That’s two hours shy of an entire month! According to MIT’s technology review, Americans spend 24 hours a week online. And that’s just online! That doesn’t include the multitude of procrastination strategies we employ. Crunch those numbers and online time alone is not far shy of two months wasted each year. Tack on whatever other time we waste, and the average person is wasting about 25% of every year not doing anything constructive. So for every 4 years you’ve been alive, you’ve essentially wasted 1 full year. That’s a scary consideration!
At 40, to think I’ve literally wasted 25% of my life being idle is sobering. It’s also motivating. There’s a three-pronged fork in the road: one where you lean into complacency, one where you start fighting like hell to make the most of every day, and one living some hybrid of the two. Balance is often seen as a good thing, but in this scenario, it doesn’t seem so appealing. There’s a difference between taking time to recharge versus abusing escapism. Coping mechanisms are typically seen as being either positive or negative. I tend to lean more towards the thinking that coping mechanisms are inherently positive. You either have positive/healthy coping mechanisms,or, in the absence of such coping mechanisms, you resort to destructive behaviors.
Take a good look in the mirror and what you really see is yourself only in relation to everything that’s behind you. Our pasts are all imperfect. That’s one of the few absolute truths in life. The only perfection is striving to be better than you were yesterday. It’s knowingly unattainable and yet it’s the birthplace of motivation. The future perfect tense is composed of “will” and “have” followed by the past participle of a verb. For example, “by this time next year, I will have wasted another two months of my life.” That doesn’t sound like a sentiment that anyone would voluntarily rally behind. The present is the only time for change.