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Don't waste your time

As somebody who wants to make the most of my life, I have spent a lot of time feeling worried about wasting time.

Sounds ironic? It is. Therein lies the point of this post.

I have grown up in a culture very focussed on ‘doing’. A culture where we constantly seek stimulation, where being “bored” is terrible, and being “boring” is even worse. (Heaven forbid we personify boredom!) The words “doing nothing” often come with a negative connotation, and we constantly seek to be doing something. Anything.

The Western culture concept of “doing” is so ingrained you can hear it as soon as we greet each other. “What have you been up to?”, “what’s happening?” and “keeping busy?” are said casually, but are laced with an expectation that the person has been doing a lot, has been keeping busy. In a way we are probably seeking to affirm the situation and justify the hectic way we choose to live.

Over the last few years I have started to recognise the value in relaxing, slowing down, even stopping. I have reached this conclusion cognitively through reading Eastern philosophy teachings, studying the psychology of meditation, and seeing the benefits of mind-body exercise. However I haven’t truly felt the value for myself until I worked myself to exhaustion. Not just once either, I might add. (I can be a slow learner.) Always eager to make the most of every year, every day, every hour, I formed a habit of saying yes to every opportunity, every challenge and every person who asked for my input. Why? I was terrified that if I didn’t embrace everything that came my way, that I wouldn’t be making the most of my life. Terrified that if I wasn’t productive enough I would be judged, by myself if not by others. Terrified that if I didn’t keep doing things, I wouldn’t be enough.

However, as Eckhart Tolle wisely points out, we are human beings, not human doings. Learning how to just be, without the need to think or do or act or judge or go or analyse, is not just the antidote to modern stress, it points us towards the meaning of our existence.

So while I was busy filling my life with ‘stuff’ and worrying that I wasn’t doing enough, I was missing the point of life. I was wasting each precious moment by trying to make it more than it was, and not simply appreciating it for what it was. Which you can only do when you slow down enough to take it all in.

Now I’m learning to develop new habits. Whenever I hear somebody say “that’s a waste of time” or “stop wasting your time” or “what a time waster”, I question whether there is something more valuable than productivity to be gained there. Perhaps that perceived "waste of time" is a series of moments spent resting, adoring a pet, playing a game or indulging in the company of a loved one. Perhaps the stillness, the sense of being, the love, joy and nourishment for your soul is the most important thing you could possibly be engaging in.

Now, I evaluate opportunities as they arise and say yes to the things I am really passionate about, while practicing saying no to the things that will channel my time and energy away from my main purpose. I am actually learning that I can make the most of my life by doing less! So it’s true – less is more.

In addition, I have no regrets about “wasting time” by worrying about wasting time! Not only is that in the past and not worth concerning myself with, but everything that has happened has led me here, to this precious moment that I am loving and appreciating and taking in. I wouldn’t change a single minute.

Bek Smith is a mental fitness ambassador who would like to remind everybody - including herself! - to embrace the value of play, rest and meditation. For more information about Bek's work please visit the Smith & Wellness website.

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