Hypothetically, let’s say you’re about to live abroad for a year on an assignment for work. You receive a generous stipend from accounts payable to cover your expenses. Your company recognizes the importance of work/life balance and gives you the freedom to spend your stipend however you choose, but they enforce the policy that no employee will receive more than has been allotted should you run out of money. You’ve also been told that any money you don’t spend on the trip will be reabsorbed by the company at the end of the year, so there’s no cash out. Therefore, as an employee, it would make the most sense to try to spend every penny, but to take care to spend each penny responsibly.
Similarly, as I set intentions for 2018, I welcome the New Year as though I am about to receive a 365-day stipend on an assignment from the universe. Each day is mine to spend however I choose, but once the day is over, I cannot buy it back. By budgeting my time as if it were a commodity like money, I can identify how to reduce waste and limit the resources I give to things that don’t add value to my life. But there’s no reason to be stingy with my time, either. A day that’s not used to its fullest will still expire, so the awareness of time’s impermanence can act as a motivator to find more meaningful opportunities to give freely with a warm hand.
Time is relative in the sense that we generally need some reference for comparison to determine its significance. For example, living abroad for a year seems like a long time if it means you’d be a continent away from your spouse or children. On the other hand, the same 365 days is hardly any time at all if you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Even the significance of the length of a single minute changes based upon whether you’re sprinting through an airport to catch a flight or trapped underwater in a frozen pond. I bring this up to emphasize that although time is always passing at the same rate, the context of our lives shapes how valuable the time is to us. Just like money, time is a precious, limited resource that affords us freedom, depending how we perceive it.
As I reflect upon 2017, I ask myself the following questions:
- How much time did I wish away, hoping for something bigger or better in the future?
- How often did I find myself reluctantly saying “yes” because I felt too guilty to say “no”? And vice versa?
- How many times did Netflix ask me, “Are you still watching?”
- How much time did I spend filtering the moments I shared on social media compared to the time I spent being present in the moments that inspired the posts?
- Did I prioritize people who treated me like a back-up plan?
- Could I have been more patient with people who needed compassion?
- Were my actions in alignment with my goals, or did I spend my free time doing what I want now instead of what I want most?
While I generally find New Year’s Resolutions to be arbitrary or cliché, I also believe there’s no time like the present when it comes to focusing on self-improvement and commitment to personal growth. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!