Knowing what you know now, having all of life’s experiences thus far behind you, what would you do differently?
Why is this important? Because if you are reading this, you have a gift sitting in front of you. Every single person reading this article has this gift in common.
The gift? Time.
Why is it that the question of “what would you do differently” is most commonly asked following a negative event? It could follow a missed opportunity to land a big client, a health scare, the sudden loss of a loved one. Why must it take being jarred out of the routine of life before reflection becomes a prioritization?
The weekend should not be a 48-hour countdown until Monday, and Friday should not feel like the victorious finish line of a marathon. What if instead of being vulnerable to the regrets of the future, we take a moment, take a breath, and decide what we want to do differently – starting today.
Fill in the blanks:
I wish I would have____________
I would have spent less time____________
I would have spent more time____________
I would have worked____________
I would have focused more on____________
I would have focused less on____________
I would have worried more about____________
I would have worried less about____________
I would have cherished____________
The intent behind this exercise is not to create a laundry list of missed opportunities. Holding on to regrets can be a form of self-sabotage. In fact, in many cases it is impossible to have made a better decision at the time. We were doing the best we could with what we had in the moment. But as life’s experiences evolve, so do we. Values change, financial circumstances change, confidence and maturity change. We are meant to grow and outgrow past versions of ourselves. But life moves quickly, and the routine of everyday norms can accidentally engage the autopilot setting of survival.
Fill in the blanks above for all aspects of a balanced life, including relationships, career, health and financial. Then take each of the “I would have” statements of the past and revise them to be your non-negotiables for the future.
The Focus: What Would You Do Differently?
It is not possible to manage time. It keeps marching forward regardless of what we do. However, our energy is one of the most valuable things we can control. What do you allow to take this most precious asset of yours? Who and what receives your focus and your attention? If you ever feel like your energy is depleted but are not sure where it went, you may need to focus on the proverbial “apps you have running in the background.” With so much high-tech in our daily lives it can leave little energy left for high-touch attention. Consider the following to give yourself more battery life:
- Give yourself a full hour to start your day before allowing yourself to check email on phone/computer
- Eat lunch anywhere besides staring at the phone/computer
- Disable push notifications for social media, news, email, etc.
- Leave devices in another room during meals and while sleeping
- Delete certain apps entirely and relegate usage of those apps to a web browser only
- Switch your phone display to grayscale, making the colorful icons less attention-grabbing
Recognize that there is something bigger at play here: there may be a deeply rooted connection as to why the phone ceased to be enjoyable, and instead something you are virtually compelled to use. Connect the feeling behind the activity:
- Feeling lonely, so time to check social media plan something enjoyable with a friend/family
- Need something positive to happen at work, so I’ll keep refreshing my email spend time making new possible opportunities happen at work
- Nervous about all of the chaos going on in the world, so need to check the news again do something that makes life feel less chaotic today
- Feeling bored, so need a distraction to work on being comfortable spending some time alone with your own thoughts
In a culture that is bombarded with information and stimuli, finding time void of noise can seem inconceivable. However, it is in that void that we are able to tap into the part of the brain that can process thoughts of deep significance. Give your mind the space to take all of the information it’s received and make use of it in important ways by doing things differently.
Instead of a fear of feeling bored, consider instead a failure to appreciate the repercussions of not being bored enough.
Later will be now before you know it. It’s time to value the gift of time.
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