The problem with Time
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Last weekend I was reviewing where I am in terms of different areas of my life. I have created for myself a simple model of 10 areas:
Physical environment, home
Using your time
Career, work, self-realization
Fun & recreation, hobbies
Health, body, physical appearance
Friends, social life, community
Family relationships, children
Significant other, romance, sex
I gave the score for each on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 denotes that I am completely unhappy and not satisfied with it and 10 would be the opposite where my satisfaction is at the highest level. I do this little exercise a couple of times per year to see if I have missed something for too long and to also claim what I do have as the result of my strategy for life. I got a score of 89 which for me is close to the average over a decade.
The score indicates that my strategy has worked out pretty nicely and I could continue my journey on this planet Earth. However, something made me pause and ask a question: why not 100? What is really stopping me from having all areas at the highest level according to this model? I know that this is only a model and there are many other ways to assess your state of being but still, what is this model trying to tell me?
To make this newsletter more practical it might be a good idea to do this assessment for yourself as well before continuing to read on. If you do it in the end then you will miss the change of perception upon your own life.
Now getting back to the exploration of our scores…
By paying closer attention to the scores and drilling into what is reducing the score I stumble on a very simple statement - not enough time spent in this area. I could easily have any area at maximum satisfaction if I just spend a little more time in that area. And indeed one of the lowest scores is also the area of “Using your time” which itself is already a good indicator.
Something tells me that I am not the only one facing the problem of time. Are there areas in your life that you could enjoy more if you only had more time for them? If your answer is No then perhaps you could save yourself some time by not continuing to read this newsletter ;-)
What is wrong with time and why is there never enough of it?
Who is asking such a question in me? Note your own answer, we will come back to this…
There are many ways to approach time. On one hand, we can look upon it as if there is no time. By this I mean the only thing that exists, is the current moment - the famous Now. Everything that was before, becomes a recollection and everything that has not yet come becomes a prediction. From the perspective of Now it is clear that it is not possible to have all areas of life at the maximum level of satisfaction as you cannot have all those different experiences happening all together in that same moment.
From here it follows that this model itself presumes that you are assessing mostly the past. And here the past is the sum total of our actions in those areas. An interesting perspective emerges - what time period did I have in mind while doing the assessment? Was it one week or two, or a month or two? I would be surprised if you took 12 months or more. I took the period of about 3-4 months.
This means that my assessment of Now for me depends on the last 3-4 months. I am carrying with me a heavy bag of recollections that affect my current state of being! Well, the heaviness depends on whether my scores were low or high. Low scores make me feel heavy and drained while high scores can lift me up and energize me.
Another way of saying that I did not have enough time is to say that I did not take enough action in those areas where the score was lower. This brings us back to the question of who is asking me that question at the beginning of this section. I have named this part of myself a Taskmaster. From his perspective, I either did not tick off enough tasks or I was inefficient in doing so. His (yes, this is male quality in me) solution is to plan better and become more efficient in execution.
Great! I have solved the riddle of time! I need better time management and better execution of those damned tasks so that I will get to that glorious finish line of maximum points! Taskmaster is a tricky animal. He actually knows that regardless of how much effort you will put in, there is always more to do and hence he can stay in charge and who would not like to be in charge?
And even if I would allow my inner Taskmaster to push me to the limits then on its blind mission it would push out my ability to enjoy those activities. Coming back to scoring, the maximum satisfaction without enjoyment is unreachable and I might even get lower scores than before. More action is not the cure I am searching for…
Time is the expression of Desire.
What was that? Where did this statement jump in? The time comes into being through motion. Even our beloved 24h is coming from the motion of Earth spinning on its axis. Think about your own movement. Would it be possible if you would desire absolutely nothing? It does not matter if we are talking here about the movement of your physical body or let's say only thoughts. I desire something and it is followed by some sort of movement. If there would be no movement then how could you perceive time?
If you watch a movie and from some scene onwards there is no movement on the screen then it means someone has pushed a pause button and the time of the movie has stopped. Well, at least for me this has happened several times when my daughter wants to talk to me while I watch Netflix. LOL.
If the time relates to my desire then I could solve the riddle at hand from a different angle. To have more time I need to desire less. Eventually, my satisfaction in each area of my life (model) is about the experiences I had. If I give a low score then this translates that I either wanted more of the experience or a better quality of the experience. If I desire less then I will lower my expectations for either the quantity or quality of my experiences.
It can well be that I can be happy with my hobbies when I pick up my guitar once per month. If that satisfies my desire for the category of fun and hobbies then well done! Depending on the quality picking up a guitar could mean a concert well delivered or playing for my dog in the candlelight.
This feels a bit better solution than my Taskmaster’s. I can indeed lower my expectations for quantity a bit but this presumes one thing at least for me. That the quality goes up. To have less but with better quality is a good way of compressing Time.
One expression of Desire manifests itself in the form of emotions.
We have been taught that it is better to move away from negative emotions and move closer to positive emotions. And the quest for happiness has been kickstarted! This darned elusive happiness.
However, with such an approach we have thrown out most of the aspects of desire and we only measure the quality of our experiences from one aspect - joy - an expression of a desire to live. While all other expressions are being used to denote less of a quality. For example, who fancies sadness (desire to change), anger (desire to re-spect), and fear (desire to re-treat) as good indicators of a quality experience?
Quality of experience is a tricky concept. If you think about any experience then what can you remember of the last time you ate sushi for example? The more you remember the higher the quality. This leads us to details. If you were aware of more details of that experience you can also remember more of it. Here the emphasis is not on remembering, although this is vital for you to assess properly your experiences of the past period, but on being aware.
The more aware you become of an experience the more of it you can enjoy. Here another obstacle is set for us as in general we are conditioned to see the importance only in big things. What would make eating sushi a big thing? Eating together with the president of your country or perhaps when this is a surprise dinner from your friends on your birthday?
Now we already have three blockers to find more quality in our experiences: (1) discarding most of the emotions as negative, (2) not being able to be more aware of the details and invisible side, and (3) being trained that importance equals big things.
Time is the product of perceiving the movement of life.
In other words, if t = time and a = awareness then the relationship would be t = c / a where c is a constant (time). From this we can see that the more aware you become, i.e. the more you are able to perceive, the more your relative sense of time expands. The opposite is being half-asleep and missing most of the details and wonders of our experiences.
This indicates that for me to improve my scoring I would need to become more aware of the little details of those interactions and relationships I have in any of those listed categories. By becoming more sensitive towards my own state of being through emotions while eating sushi and those of my daughter and our dog under the table and the waitress serving us and the environment around us and the skills of the chef making those rolls.
This brings up the quality of this simple dinner with my daughter and our dog that I had 14 days ago after leaving one other Asian restaurant because they did not welcome our dog. The problem of Time is indeed a good teacher! Does it solve my mystery of getting maximum scores?
Hm… Something is still not quite right. Now the maximum depends on my ability to become more aware which presumes change. If my current level of awareness is not sufficient then I am still stuck with lower scores. This reminds me of when I had more free time I used to play golf and I absolutely love the scoring model of this game called handicapping. This essentially means that you are playing against your own previous score and if you beat it proportionally more than your fellow player beats his score, you will win.
In our journey, such scoring is called the concept of Impeccability. That means giving your best according to your abilities and resources that are available to you at any given moment of time. This means in practice that when I am tired then I can pay less attention to details and aspects of my ongoing activity and there is no need for me to rank it lower. All experiences are always relative to our state of being.
The only reason to assess an event of lesser quality is when I do know how to act better and I do have the resources to do so but I choose not to. I have now revisited my scores with the eyes of impeccability assessing if I gave my best according to my knowledge and skills. The new number is 96. My Taskmaster can rest as these missing 4 points are hiding in details that I have chosen to ignore. Time to use all of my emotions as per their original design and have a strategy of no regrets.
What was the impact of our joint journey on your assessment and did you get a grasp on the problem of Time? Please share in reply as this increases the quality of this experience of writing this newsletter for me.
Time is the essence of impeccability, Rein
This is our monthly letter to share our views and understanding of what is happening around us, complemented with photos by Anu Martinson. If this speaks to you, hit the Subscribe button to be among the first ones to receive the fresh newsletter in your inbox.