Ever get the feeling that time is just passing you by?
You wake up each day and dread getting out of bed, because each day feels like a repeat of the day before. You know, same shit different day.
Months, even years pass. You look back and think, where did all that time go? What am I doing with my life? Why does time pass while my life stays the same??
Real time vs experienced time
We feel that time has passed only when we sense that change has happened.
In the external world, in temperate countries, the passing of time is marked by the changing seasons – spring, summer, fall, winter. Passing of time is also marked by the solar and lunar cycles. A day, a month, a year.
Our internal worlds are different. You’ll notice that time for us is relative. Some days pass really slowly. Some days pass really quickly. When we’re engaged, time slows. When we’re disengaged, time lengthens. Doing an activity you love makes you have a fuller experience of the moment, giving you a satisfying experience, at the same time you don’t quite notice time passing. On the other hand, going through the motions and routines of life – traveling to work, gossiping with colleagues – makes you tetchy and wanting time to pass.
Furthermore, we’re not always fully experiencing and being in the present. We get anxious about the future, worrying and playing out terrible scenarios in our mind. Or we daydream about a perfect ideal future, spending our moments fantasizing. Similarly, we also dwell on the past. Even today we can clearly remember an embarrassing moment we experienced 10 years ago. The hurts and slights from the past still haunt us.
When we are not fully engaged, we get the feeling of not wanting to be here in this moment.
So we come up with ways to cope or escape. Constantly scrolling Facebook is one way. Making ourselves busy with meaningless activities is another. Or we try to distract ourselves by consuming things – eating, watching TV, buying stuff. We do things to make us forget ourselves.
Of course, we could also simply ignore the problem and keep doing what we are doing.
How to reclaim your life
But if you really want to stop feeling like you’re wasting your life, here are some ways to reclaim your life, and make life worthwhile again.
1. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do
We all have hopes and dreams, secret longings and wishes that we keep in our hearts. Sometimes it’s difficult to act on these dreams because we’re so afraid we might fail. We would rather keep them inside us so that at least there is a glimmer of hope that our dream is a possibility.
We fear what would happen if we were to let the dream see the light of day. The world can be a cruel place, and maybe reality would snuff out our dreams before we even begin.
The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry our their dream. – Les Brown
But if we keep all our dreams inside us, we start getting resigned about life. It means we no longer believe in ourselves and our possibilities. Somewhere inside us we believe that we don’t have the ability to make our dreams happen. Maybe we even believe that we don’t deserve to go for our dreams. Maybe we’re not worthy.
If we don’t go for our dreams, all the pent up hopes and frustrations slowly begin to eat us up inside. In a way, its a slow and painful sort of death. To distract ourselves from the pain we do 99 other things that don’t matter to us, and not the 1 thing that does.
So do that thing you’ve always wanted. You might meet with failures and rejections and you might stumble and fall. But the thing you did not also know is that you have the strength and power to overcome setbacks. Allow your dream to be forged in the crucible of reality. That’s the only way you can build a bridge from your heart to the world.
2. Go on an adventure
Life starts to feel the same when we stagnate. We start to live in predictable cycles – wake up, eat, shit, sleep, lather, rinse, repeat. So we need to break the cycle.
But what does breaking the cycle really mean? Some people think that going on a vacation is breaking the cycle. They think that experiencing something new externally is a real adventure.
Unfortunately, you and I both know that changing the scenery will always be just another distraction.
If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done. – Thomas Jefferson
What we really need to change is ourselves. The real adventure is inside us, not outside. Going on an internal adventure is really about facing our fears and challenging ourselves. The things we most fear traps us in routines, keeping us running on an endless hamster wheel. Our preferences also trap us, making us choose the same things over and over again.
So the only way to break the cycle is to do things outside our comfort zone. But there is also a strategy for this. Doing things outside our comfort zone is not just a gratuitous exercise in taking risk, riding roller coasters or jumping off cliffs.
It’s about expanding ourselves in areas that matter most to us. For example, if we really value relationships, then going on an adventure could mean exploring deeper relationships with people we love, being vulnerable and honest with our loved ones, and taking emotional leaps of faith. That’s an adventure worth having.
3. Care about something
Many of us feel disengaged because we don’t really care about anything much beyond our own personal needs. Life is more like a game of survival – we’re not really playing to win, we’re playing not to lose.
That makes our lives very limited indeed.
We’re afraid to care because we risk getting hurt. We’re afraid to stand for something greater than ourselves and to fight for something more.
But what if we allowed ourselves to care about something? Perhaps we allow ourselves to care more about our family, or our community, or our environment. Or we care about fighting for ideals like courage, peace, justice, love.
When we find something worth fighting for, our spirits are invigorated. We realise that we’re capable of so much more than we imagined. No matter what challenges life throw at us, we always find the strength to get up again. Because we know that what we stand for is so much greater than any temporary setback.
So ignite that flame in your heart and let it guide you. Follow that light to the very end.