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The Greatest Gift

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“525,600 minutes! 525,000 moments so dear. 525,600 minutes! How do you measure, measure a year?” I think we all recognize these classic lyrics from the musical rent. Images of lights, a stage, and better singers than me; a song about how we measure the times in our lives. Unfortunately, these lyrics are not accurate. At all. But no worries, if the song is going to accurately represent us, we can change the lyrics. I’ll give this a shot. “525,000 minutes of nothing! Yeah, that’s about right.525,000 wasted moments! How do you measure, measure a wasted life?” Now that song represents our society accurately. You see, it seems that society lets the minutes slip by. We constantly waste time and lose opportunities to achieve. I once spent 10,800 seconds thinking about an assignment before actually doing it. 84,600 seconds happen each day and we are taking those seconds for granted without even realizing it. Taking those seconds for granted is no different than taking our lives for granted. Time makes up our lives and when we waste it, we waste our lives. Society unconsciously de-values time by stealing it and over measuring it, which causes us to steal our lives away and ultimately sabotage ourselves. So let’s begin, not by looking at the clock but by realizing the depth this problem has by learning how time slips away from us when we first waste it, and second over measure it. Next we will discover the untimely implications and finally solutions to value the time we have.

To start, we need to look at the greatest cause of wasted time. Television. Better yet, as one of my good friends refers to it as, “The idiot box.” We are all guilty of wasting time in front of the television. However, we often fail to understand just how much time slips away from us. A mass survey conducted by the A.C. Nielson Company shockingly revealed that the average American watches four hours of television a day. In a 65 year life, that American will have spent nine years glued to the tube. That’s 2,701,224,000 seconds and I would rather not admit how many more seconds that took me to calculate. I’m not good at math. However, the causes of wasted time apply to more than just television. Manual labor. When I do manual labor, I waste so much time. For some reason, I make everything harder than it has to be. But the problem is, society shares the same attitude. Not towards manual labor of course, but to work in general. Too often, we work harder instead of smarter. The obvious result of this behavior, is we work too much. According to a CNN Article written by Gordon Anderson, Americans work far too much. By working so much, we waste time that could have been spent balanced with other important activities. It’s also interesting to note that the average American works 350 hours more than the average European per year. John De Graff, an anti overwork activist states, “Europeans have made a trade-off between quality of life and hours worked. We Americans have chosen to trade all our increases in productivity for more stuff. And to pay for it, we need to work even more." The harms are alarming. People who waste their time do not accomplish their goals, ambitions, dreams, and desires. When we do not achieve these goals, we forfeit our chances for success and happiness. So we might like to think an hour of television is harmless, but in reality that is 3600 seconds of happiness lost.

But the value of time not only lies in how we spend it, but how we measure it. There are people that suffer from a condition which I like to call octd(obsessive compulsive time disorder). We are extremely concerned about time in the past, future, and present so much that it begins to damage us. We spend too much time concerned with time. I can guarantee that there are at least eight devices that tell time in this room but not one that tells us how to use it. Dr. Robert L. Kohls from San Francisco State University published a guide to American values written for the purpose of acquainting tourist Europeans to our values and customs. In it he states that, “Americans are more concerned with getting things accomplished on time than they are with developing interpersonal relationships.” When we spend too much time focused on time, it creates a level of stress. There are times when we do waste time. There are times when we are late. We need to accept that. The first half of this speech is gone. That time is gone and I cannot recover it. I need to accept that. Without acceptance and balance of time, stress takes away our ability to adapt to those situations. But the grander implications of not accepting that are sabotaging. Recently, I learned that one of the greatest impairments to success and accomplishing what we desire is self-sabotaging behaviors. Self-sabotagers suffer from an irrational mental condition. They have everything they need to succeed but for some reason they cannot. Dr. Earl R. Smith, a published author and life coach notes that one of the seminal indicators of self-sabotaging behavior is lateness. Being late displays that you do not value your time. The link between balanced time and sabotage is clear. When we do not have our time appropriately balanced, we sabotage ourselves. We prevent our success and happiness. We lose time that is too precious to forfeit. How many times have we heard people say, I just wish I had more time? How many times do we hear people say, I just don’t have time. How many times do we hear friends lamenting a lack of success saying, I feel like my life is wasted?

The value of time was a lesson that I learned myself. A few months ago an acquaintance of mine passed away. His name was Samuel Romero. He was fifteen years old when a seizure struck him and took his young life. Now I was never fond of him, we were not friends, but for some reason the news of his death struck me like a thunderbolt. He was perfectly healthy and it was the last thing you would ever expect. As I reflected over the news I truly realized just how miniscule our lives are. Any moment a life can be snuffed out like a candle. I thought to myself, what if that had been me? Would my time have been spent well? I realized the answer was no. It was then that my perception changed. I realized that I needed to spend my time better. Time is something too important to de-value. It truly is. Each day that we live is a gift and we must treat each day that way. Everything we accomplish and achieve is determined by how we use our time. We can overcome this problem and when we do, we will lead richer, fuller, happier, successful, exciting lives. But more importantly, when we leave this life, we will leave it knowing that our time has been spent well.

So how can we value our time? Well first, we simply need to take time for every part of our lives. Time management. Dr. Donald Whetmore, a professional speaker and time management expert writes in an article that “Effective time management is really the art, the science and the practice of gaining better control, not absolute control, over the entire twenty-four hours in every day.” With only 525,600 minutes in a year, time needs to be balanced. An old Irish text expresses this message beautifully: “Take time to work, for it is the price of success. Take the time to think, it is the source of strength. Take time to play, it is the secret of youth. Take the time to read, it is the seed of wisdom. Take the time to be friendly, for it brings happiness. Take the time to dream, for it will carry you to the stars. Take the time to love, it is the joy of life. Take the time to be content, it is the music of the soul.” When we take time for each of these facets, we accomplish more and improve ourselves. Dr. Whetmore continues in the same article, categorizing our needs into seven vital areas of life. He states “in the long run, if you spend a sufficient quantity and quality of your time in each of the Seven Vital areas, then your life will be balanced, building a solid foundation for your permanent success.” Eleanor Roosevelt is reputed to have said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” We must treat every day as a gift and value the time we have. Time after all, is truly the greatest gift. And when we do this, we will not have to wish for more time. We will have already spent our time well enough. Well, it looks like I am just about out of time. But you know what? I am perfectly okay with that. I truly am. Because whether we have 10 minutes, 525,600 minutes, or more, time is the greatest gift for all of us.





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