I came across the lyrics of the Rolling Stone’s famous song Time waits for no one. The words are haunting and became famous because we can all feel their impact: Time waits for no one, it won’t wait for me.
I feel it; it’s often been a driving force behind my decisions: I was afraid I’d die of boredom; I was afraid I’d be too old too soon; I was afraid I’d miss out on an opportunity that might never show up again. And so I’d jump in, unprepared and often blind, just so I could close that possibility of missing out on something.
A lot of people do this. In fact, more and more people today are driven by this fear of missing out. Jumping on this or that particular train makes us feel good – at least for the moment: we feel like we’re doing something positive, it’s exciting and energizing. It’s exciting like a roller coaster is exciting: experiencing the fear of diving down into a seeming abyss, feeling the relief when we arrive in one piece shortly after. It feels positive because we feel good doing it – energized and alive. It’s often called “good stress” and lauded as something that’s a positive influencer in our lives.
However, reality and appearance can sometimes diverge, and I believe that’s true here: humans evolved to have stress in their lives, but occasionally, not every day and all day. When our ancestors needed to hunt a dangerous animal, or protect their home against attack, they were able to instantly summon the clarity, strength and stamina needed to do that. It no doubt felt good to have a successful hunt and successfully defend their homes – just as it does for us today. Then there would be a much longer period of rest and recovery, where their systems had a chance to heal and rebuild. In that way, they maintained a balance between restorative and stressful activities.
Today that balance is reversed: we spend most of our time in some kind of stress – in our businesses or careers, raising children on top of that, and keeping up with mortgages and student loans. We tend to work longer hours than our parents did, and carry a debt load that they didn’t even contemplate.
No matter how you slice it, even if most of the time it feels good, this can’t be good for us.
Eventually, we start to notice physical changes – fatigue, digestive issues for instance, that won’t go away for long. So we eat better, exercise better, maybe spare an hour a week for social activities – and that helps, but not completely. Because we are still wired to “not missing out”.
Time waits for no one, it won’t wait for me.
Not everyone is impacted by this drive. I’m really talking to those who are. I’ve been one of you, was eventually impacted physically, and had to learn to live a lot differently. The biggest thing I had to learn was to address my fear of missing out.
This is a big topic, and not one easily covered. But there are a few things you can do for yourself to begin to address this:
- Awareness of your pattern. Always the first essential step to any worthwhile change: being aware of how we are driven by time provides a benchmark and a starting point. Notice when you start to rush; when you brush off being with friends and colleagues to relax and socialize; when you dive into something new with little or no consideration. What’s your particular pattern?
- Beginning in a positive way. It’s amazingly difficult to take the first 10 minutes of the day and simply sit. In my practice, I discuss this with every client – a few of them are able to incorporate it into their lives – most fail to do so. Master Time is a very hard task-master, and simply refuses to let us sit calmly with whatever is happening at that moment – even for 10 minutes. And yet it’s probably the most positive thing we can do for ourselves, and will make a difference to the rest of our day. So see if you can tolerate even 3 minutes, to start, then build it into 10.
- Being kind to ourselves. This means no judgments, no comparisons to some idealized view of what should be vs what is, especially within ourselves. Change at this fundamental level takes commitment, courage, and – yes – time.
When chopping onions, just chop onions
Quote of the Week
You can have it all. Just not all at once.
― Oprah Winfrey
At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org