What do you think these boxes represent?
Hey… we need to talk. Don’t worry, it’s nothing too bad, probably. I’ve just had a realisation and I think you should hear it. It’s about the time we have on this planet.
I get it, that sounds heavy. It’s not something we tend to think about, or perhaps we even try to not-think about it. We want to enjoy our time, right? For me, last Thursday evening I was watching a well-made travel show. Friday evening I was hanging out with some friends just talking. I’m guessing that’s recognisable for you. Maybe you went out during the weekend; maybe you watched a movie, read a book, chilled with friends or family… You probably spent your time in a pretty good way. I feel like I did. But here’s my question:
Is ‘pretty good’ good enough?
I ask this question because time slips through our fingers so quickly. It’s the water of life we can never capture. It’s so easy to get lost in the ‘little things’ in life. To forget that the clock is ticking, and that the water of life is dripping away into a deep, unreachable cavern.
When I get lost in that immersive travel documentary, I don’t even realise that at the end of it two hours have gone by. It doesn’t feel like that. It feels like I’m on an island on the other side of the world, with a family of five people who have the island to themselves. That’s a pretty alright way to enjoy my time.
But if I’m truly honest with myself? I could’ve done without it. I could’ve spent my time in a different way that would have fulfilled me more deeply. If I had I would still be happy that I’d spent my time that way. Now I just feel meh about it.
Daily life is just set up in a way that makes it easy to get lost in these things. We don’t really have to think about deep topics on a regular basis or ever, really. By default, we tend not to think about the important things in life.
There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It’s not your fault either. Perhaps focusing on more immediate, less ‘important’ things comes as a side effect of being human. However the fact that we are human means life can offer us so much more than just ‘enjoyable’ or ‘alright’ ways to spend our time. You can spend your free time in a way that’s deeply fulfilling to you. And the same goes for the time you spend working.
That seems to be another default: people not liking, even dreading, their work. Yet you can make your work, your life; the way you spend time, more meaningful and fulfilling by asking yourself the important questions. And that may be heavy; it may cost some time; it may be scary. But I want to show you why it’s much scarier not-to ask yourself those questions. With an exercise from Extraordinary Life’s most impactful session, I want to help you step out of default mode and step onto the road towards a more fulfilling life.
We usually do this exercise in-person. For maximum effect right now, follow the next few steps. Grab a pen and a piece of paper or open an application like paint on your computer.
Draw the figure at the beginning of this post. Think about what the boxes might represent. This article is a clue. Ready to see the answer? Go to the next step.
Answer: those eight boxes represent your life. One box stands for 10 years, as our average life expectancy is around 80 years. Maybe you can already guess what we’re about to do next - we’re going to fill in some of these boxes.
First off, draw a line relative to where you’re already at in life. I’ll give you an example. I’m 24 at the time I’m writing this. Each box is 10 years so I’m drawing a line about 2,4 boxes in (A). Then I fill in what came before that line (B).
What’s next? Well, let’s say you sleep 8 hours a day (which is healthy). That’s one third of your whole day - if you do that every day that means you sleep one third of your life. So draw another line at a third of what you have left and fill it what came before it.
Next; you’ll spend quite some time during your days on activities you cannot really skip. They include eating, household chores, caring for the needs of others, commuting, bathroom-related activities (hopefully at least a shower) and so on. That’s another third you can cross out. What you have left now is time to do stuff. Including work, you also need to do that in this time. If you have yet to enter the job market, your work will take around 10 years of your life. So.
How does that make you feel?
Does it make you feel happy? Sad? Shocked, or confused, or frustrated? Your reaction will tell you about what you think of those years you have left. And I think we can agree that we want to spend our time in a way that’s meaningful to us. You can make the standard daily activities more meaningful, but that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to talk about work.
If you don’t create a meaningful working life, it’s going to cost you. You won’t enjoy your work; you won’t have enough energy left at the end of the day to do much beside enjoying your time in an alright way, perhaps watching some Netflix show. You might end up disliking work so much that it even messes with your weekend. Saturday will be alright but sunday… Sunday is the day before monday. And you’ll hate monday.
If work is such a big part of our life, it should be meaningful. It should energize you, so that the you enjoy going to work, you enjoy working, and you have energy left at the end of the day to feel tuly good, have fun and spend quality time with friends or family. If you want both your work and your time off-work to be fulfilling, you need to find out what you value. And to do that, you’ll have to ask yourself the important questions. What is it you want from life? What is it you want to contribute to?
You won’t have to do that alone either. This realisation about the importance of our working lives is exactly why Extraordinary Life was founded. We believe that working lives can and should be meaningful, fulfilling and energizing. Not only that: Extraordinary Life stands for a work-life integration. This comes from an attitude towards work as an integral and crucial part of your life. The right mentality will help you balance your work and everything else in such a way that you can optimally experience a life you find meaningful. Extraordinary Life aims to help people with these things by providing clear guidance, support and a community of people striving for better lives.
So. Like I said at the beginning: It’s probably nothing too bad, though this can be heavy.
At whatever point you are in life, if you’ve enjoyed much of your time that’s good. I’m not trying to say that time spent in an ‘alright’ way is wasted. It can be definitely be fun to chill, watch a show or do whatever you quite enjoy doing. I just wish to bring awareness to how easy it is to spend a lot of time doing that. The same goes for work.
If you do work you don’t really (or at all?) enjoy, that’s about a ten-year bite from your life. A whole box, gone. And it’ll impact other boxes, for instance the quality of your time spent with family, as well. On the other hand, if you enjoy your work - if it’s fulfilling and meaningful to you - that’s a whole box of feeling good and truly enjoying what you do. Having a fulfilling job is like adding ten years of living to your life. It’ll become possible to integrate your work into your whole life rather than seeing it as something separate. And that will affect the other boxes also, in a more positive way.
Now it’s up to you to make a choice, because you do have a choice. There's no law that states 'alright' has to be the default way we experience life. So will you ask yourself the impactful questions? Will you find out if the way you’re living fulfills you as much as humanly possible? Will you take the step to change things if that isn’t the case? I know I will, and I hope you’ll join us in that. It’s possible.
Let’s take the deep dive.
Photo by Sourav Mishra from Pexels