Living in the Moment to Rediscover the True Value of Time

We daydream about the workday being over, of fast forwarding until our holidays 4 months from now or worst, plan our lives around our retirement 25 years away. Living in the moment is a privilege that very few of us allow ourselves to indulge in. But what about all the missed opportunities for joy we’re losing during those seconds, minutes, days, months and years were wasting fantasizing about future happiness? If we saw more clearly the true value of time, we might not allow all those wasted moments to slip through our fingers quite so easily.  

A red clock in the grass

It happens to all of us. We imagine how happy we’ll be once we finally get that new job, how loved we’ll finally feel once we meet that one special person, or how satisfied with our lives we’ll feel once we finally have a baby/start that business/buy that cottage by the lake.

But what about today’s happiness? Is there no way of finding joy today, even without the new job, perfect partner and summer home?

Taking time to reflect on the true value of time might be just what you need to rediscover the joy that can be found in this very moment.

Time is an illusion

Time, like the economy, our political systems and religion are man-made creations. The way we manage our time is a collectively agreed upon illusion.

There’s no scientific formula or ancient artifact that tells us that days must be broken into 24-hour sections, or that years need to have 365 days. In fact, hours, days and years, are also just words that linguists made up.

A calendar tells time with dates

They were created because they felt that they were necessary for the types of societies we were looking to build. And I’m not trying to deny their value or the contribution they’ve made to the “development” of our world. It just feels nice to remind myself every now and then of the reality of time.

As though reminding myself of its true nature allows me to put back into perspective the way I use my time. And the stress I put on myself about how I “utilize” each moment.

(I’m currently reading Sapiens, which is an incredibly rich book that has been reminding me a lot of this idea. If you’re interested in reading more about the shared illusions of human beings, I highly recommend it.)

Our skewed views of time

We are a culture obsessed with productivity and efficiency. Our schedules are filled to the brim as we try to cram in as much stuff as we can. We make sure that we are “productive” each second of our day, and feel the need to justify the moments when aren’t.  But with all these appointments, activities, and priorities, it seems as though we have lost sight of the value of a consciously lived second.

Time is a concept that each culture manages differently. Some folks from far off lands still rise and go about their days based on the movement of the sun. Others, rise late and lazily get through the workday to have all their energy left in the evenings to spend time with loved ones. In some cultures, now means in a little while, and if you wanna talk about this very second, you need to clarify right now.

Then for many of us, time is the quantitative measure we use to break up the parts of our days. This system helps us be as efficient with our time as possible. Breaking up our days into small chunks of time to be booked up individually allows us to work full time, manage a family full time, go to the gym, see friends, watch a few hours of TV  and even squeeze in a night class to pursue a passion for Chinese calligraphy.

But with all those tasks filling up your days, how many of those moments are you truly living consciously and joyfully?

Do you ever stop amidst the chaos to think about whether this is really how you want to be spending each second, minute, hour and day of your lifetime? Does this way of life bring you happiness?

Time in exchange of money and success

It’s easy to forget that our salaries are companies’ ways of giving our time worth. When you work part-time shift work it’s easier to remember this because your salary is quoted in dollars per hour. But once we get full-time permanent jobs, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are selling each minute of our life for money.

But we are.

And I do realize that we require money to buy food, pay rent and sustain our lives, but I am greatly doubting the amount of time we really need to be giving our employers to be able to get the funds we need to live.

Our western societies have given extreme value to success. And success is usually defined in terms of the money we have and earn, our job titles, the power and responsibility we have at work and all the material goods that this context allows us to obtain.

We end up working to achieve this success. Then the massive joke is that once we have it, we have no time left to enjoy all the toys, fancy cars and big house we’ve worked hard to get. Instead, the house is left empty while you slave away at the office only to come home too tired to play with all these things.

Girl worries about not living in the moment

Time seems like something you just can’t seem to get a hold of. It slips through your fingers while you wasteful peruse through social media, mindlessly scrolling the hours away.

Living in the moment

I must admit, I am the first to consistently overbook myself, and try to jam pack way more things into my schedule than actually fit. I constantly struggle with the way I manage my time, and what to prioritize in my day. Many entire years were lived without having even a hand full of moments that I lived consciously and presently.  

My struggle with time is exactly what leads me to think about it so much, and to come up with ways to become less stressed out about it. Well, that and living in Spain, a country that manages time quite differently than me. Slow walkers, extremely long and late lunches, afternoon siestas and super late bedtimes, sure can get a girl thinking about time management.

Girl sits by ruins contemplating the value of time

The time limit

It’s as though we forget that the amount of time we get on this Earth, or in this lifetime, is limited. You only get one chance at living December 10th, 2018. Today will only happen once. And who knows, maybe you only get one chance at life. Are you truly living in the moment and appreciating the time life has given you?

It’s easy to forget the impermanence of life. And although some people hate talking about this subject because they think it’s sad, depressing or gloomy, I find it incredibly uplifting.

Being reminded that I only have a set amount of time to live all the experiences I’ve ever dreamt of, is the push I need to keep striving for scary, but deeply fulfilling goals. I don’t want to get to the end of this road, and regret not having lived fully.

And so I do. I try to be present and mindful with each second that I am given. Living in the moment is the motto I strive to life by.

Girl relaxes in the sun in front of mountain

Find joy in each moment

Sure, my natural compulsive desire to “be productive” takes the driver’s seat sometimes, but as soon as I realize it has, I boot it out, and take back the control. Productivity is all nice and well, but when I’m living consciously, the value of time seems much clearer.

Time should not be valued by the loads of things you can get to fit into a day, but instead the joy and fulfillment you find in it. And for me, the best way to achieve this is by living in the moment. Being present with what is.

Screw waiting until holiday time to be excited about life, I’ll find something I can get excited about right now too. Sure holidays will be great, and I’m sure retirement is lovely too, but for now, I’m cool with just riding today’s wave.  Instead, I’ll just focus on being grateful for what today brings.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Crystal

    This is such a great post, and I totally agree. I’m so much more joyous when I somehow forget about time and am just “in the zone” or living in the moment. The thing that’s definitely hard is trying to remain present, but like you said, also knowing how much time to devote to paying bills etc. I love traveling because it seems like time stops and the only thing I really have to know is check-out times and flight times. And every moment is otherwise beautiful. Love this reflection post.. I wrote something sort of similar about joy, and time stopping on my blog too

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