There are certain absolutes associated with being human, like space, variety, community, and time. Today, think for a minute about time (wordplay!). If you’ve had any experience with Authentic Life Concepts, you know we talk about two types of time: chronos and kairos. The focus here is chronos. We go through developmental stages in our experience of time, and that means everything. Your grasp of the nature and value of time makes all the difference in your accomplishments and fulfillment of your authentic nature.
Chronos is what we normally think of when we hear the word time. It’s clock time, so to speak. It the progression of experiences. It’s sequence. It’s duration. Time is quantitative. That’s the definition of time. But what about our experience with time?
We go through three grand stages of our experience of time: as children, as mature (old), and that grand in-between. As children, our limited experience of time, shapes our lives. As infants, all we know is right this minute. There is no history or future. One of our early significant developments is the mental capacity to know continuance. Someone becomes recognizable; we expect to see them again. A certain sense of future develops. But for much of childhood, the idea of future relates mostly to what’s going to happen later today or tomorrow. Perhaps that’s why small events carry so much importance and cause us to erupt into unreasonable demands and overreaction. Right now, is all we really have. (Funny how that is always true, but in childhood it comes out.) We’ve only been alive for a short time, so a short time is all we understand. Now is urgent.
In our senior years, we have a similar experience of time, but for a completely different reason. In old age, we’ve had the experience of time as lasting over the course of years, decades, a life-time. But in old age we realize that we only have so much time left. An urgency of time redevelops, making the right now critical again, as it seemed to be to us as children. Unfortunately for many, by this point in life our mental or physical capacity to do anything about it has declined. For some this leads to disappointment, discouragement, and frustration. Regret. But the crazy game time plays on us really comes during that in-between period of life. For this discussion, think of the 40’s and 50’s.
In our middle years, we go through a curious mix of our experience of time. On the one hand we still experience an urgency, but on the other hand we feel (or act) as if we have plenty of time. On the first hand we feel an urgency, because we have too much to do. Aging parents, growing children, work, and community all want a piece of us. There just isn’t enough time to do it all! We can be victimized by stress, sleep deprivation, challenges in relationships, hassle at work, low energy, illness or health concerns, and neglect of self – all in an effort to get it all done. On the other hand, we act as if we have plenty of time, so we put off making a will, setting up powers of attorney, spending time with parents while they are still here, rejoicing in time with children before they go away to make their own household, watching grandchildren grow up, and taking care of our selves so we will be able to enjoy to the fullest our senior years.
The childhood stage of time is what it is. Hopefully we will have parents who understand the dynamics of childhood so that they will be patient and supportive through the child’s totally irrational responses to any given moment of time. Ideally, they will understand that time in childhood is for developing capacity, gaining experience, learning right and wrong, and enjoying life while it is still relatively simple.
The middle stage of life is a time when we are most under obligations and in demand; when we should be at our best and most productive; when we are our most capable and busiest. In my coaching, I routinely tell the 40’s and 50’s that they do NOT have the time or resources to be unfocused or busy with random or unimportant things. It’s not the fault of people at this stage that they are subjected to such demand. It is their (your) responsibility to direct their (your) life with purpose and integrity, however. Face it, we cannot do everything others want us to, or that we want to, or that we could really make a difference at. No one can. We aren’t supposed to. We are here in life to be the person we were born to be and do the most important things associated with who we are. We have the right to say yes to the right things and no to the rest. We have the obligation to. This middle stage impacts both this stage and the next.
I can assure you, that when you reach the mature stage, there will be things you want to do, wish you could do, would give anything to be able to do. You will find that what you did in the middle stage has put boundaries around how much of your want to’s can do anything about. Your parents will be gone. Your children and even grandchildren will have moved on. And your mental and physical ability may fail you.
This picture seems gloomy. However, you still can do something about it. If you are in the middle stage, make a list of what really matters to you and commit to being intentional about these things. They are high priorities. You have the right and the responsibility to take care of the important. If you are in the mature stage, don’t waste the time that you do have left on regret. Take the capacities you have and live to the fullest. You are never without opportunity. If you can’t go to visit children, call. If you can’t physically do something, encourage others. If you cannot intervene for someone or a concern the world has, lift them up in prayer. We are always under the bondage of time. On the other hand, as long as we live, we have this awesome asset of time, to be true to our most important people and concerns.
It is our human nature to live in time. Time cannot be altered. But we can have say over what we do in and with the time we have. Time is a precious gift, especially in that it makes us decide what really matters – and act on that. If it’s important, it’s time.
For additional information and help with making the most of time, sign up for our seminar, TAME the Chaos at www.authenticlifeconcepts.com.