If you live in the West or the "developed" world then it is important that you understand the context and implications of the place in history you occupy. If you live in these places and you are reading this article then it is almost certain that you have wealth, luxury, and free time that far surpass almost anyone who has ever lived.
Unlike the vast majority of people who have lived in times past, and indeed unlike a majority of people who live now, you do not need to make your daily survival your primary concern. Finding enough food to live one more day is not your first thought in the morning. You do not spend a lot of time worrying about shelter that will protect you from the weather and from other dangers. You assume that your children will outlive you, and you don't expect to lose them to disease and accident before they reach adulthood.
The freedom from these concerns is, comparatively speaking, a rare gift and blessing when compared to the breadth of human experience. With this freedom comes both a challenge and a responsibility.
I think those of us blessed to live with this freedom from daily survival worries, and with the luxury of time that is available to be used at our discretion instead of by the dictates of necessity, have a responsibility to use this time well. This time is much too precious to be squandered or wasted. This time should be cherished and treasured as the rare resource that it is and used well. That is our responsibility.
Our challenge is to become aware of this responsibility and to act upon it. Time is an odd resource in that it is spent at a constant, unstopping rate no matter what we do. Five years from now five years will have passed. There is nothing that you can do about that unchangeable fact. The critical question is how will you have used that time? Will you have just let it flow past unchallenged and unused, or will you choose to use that time deliberately?
I think this issue of using time deliberately is the key to fulfilling our responsibility and redeeming the precious and rare gift we have been given. Time seems to speed up in joy and slow in grief. Times passes slowly in the daily rhythms of life, but the passage of time will appear to accumulate rapidly. How does one effectively use the time that passes in the daily rhythms of life?
It requires deliberate living. What is deliberate living?
Deliberate living is when you are aware of the passage of time and you are also aware that it is impossible to know how much time is left. Time is the only resource that is always decreasing and can never be added to. You can always earn more money, travel more distance, and achieve more things, but there is nothing you can do to add time. You can only spend what you have well.
Deliberate living is when you commit to spending your time as well as you can. It means that you assume the responsibility for thinking about and choosing how to use your time, rather than letting it flow by unplanned and poorly used.
Deliberate living is not about micro-managing your life, agonizing over every lost second, feeling guilty about the past, or being unable to relax and enjoy the moment.
Instead it's about being deliberate about identifying what is important, prioritizing those things, and choosing to use your time purposefully.
To live deliberately you must do the following:
1. Allow yourself to travel in your imagination to the end of your life and look back. Ask yourself if you are pleased with how you have used your time so far, and what else you hope you use it for before the end.
2. With your perspective from your imaginary trip to the end of your life still fresh in your mind, take some time to deliberately think about and identify what is most important in your life. What are the things that you will regret not having done at the end of your life? What are the things you will regret having done? Ask yourself what changes you need to make so that you can change the picture that you will see at the end.
3. Map out a plan for achieving the things that are most important. Set goals, make plans, adjust your schedule, figure out what it will take to deliberately employ your available time to achieve what is most important.
4. Take action! The only one who will be able to make these changes is...you. Nobody else can do it. Take the action and make the changes needed to redeem your time and write the story you want to read at the end. Ultimately time will pass, the question is whether you will allow it to pass quietly and unchallenged, or whether you will seize each moment and use it deliberately and live the life worthy of the time that is granted to you.