In the past, I used to say that I never had enough time to do everything I wanted to do. Now, after having said it enough times through the years I realize how true that statement is. I will never have enough time to do everything I want to do because it’s easy to scale desires. It’s impossible, however, to increase the finite amount of time I will have on this planet.
Yes, I can always increase my chances of living longer by living better. But it doesn’t take away the fact that my life – my life, your life, everyone else’s life – is limited. You have x number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and that’s it.
I’m reminded of something Paul Bowles wrote in The Sheltering Sky:
Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.
To have enough time for the things that matter, I have to define what it is that matters to me. What do I want to contribute to the world, what do I want to add, what do I want to take away? How should I spend my time, what should I devote it to, how do I want to treat the people around me? What is most important, what are the top three things I always want to be doing, which investment of my time and energy will give me the most bang for my buck?
I don’t pretend to know the answers to all of these questions, but I am willing to ask. I am willing to curate my life, I am willing to simplify, I am willing to focus, I am willing to say no, I am willing to let the good fall by the wayside in service of the best, I am willing to let the casual slide to serve the important, I am willing to let anger, impatience and fear dissolve so I can love.
One more quote from Steve Jobs (replace the word ‘products’ with ‘moments’ and see how that reads for you):
Focus is about saying no. And the result of that focus is going to be some really great products where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.
The longer I live, the more I feel that aging well means a simplification of being, that a growing familiarity with this character called ‘I’ helps to bring greater clarity, and a falling away of layers to express the essential self. If you simply watch closely and listen attentively, you will unearth what matters to you. What really matters.