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Do the Math: Your Time is Limited

time is limited

❝The joy of life is that we're living it right now.❞ -Simon Sinek

It's hot out. It feels nice under the shade of the trees as we walk up the trail. We're getting close to the lake where we plan to have lunch when we encounter another hiker coming the other way with her dog. Her dog runs up to our dog, Bingo, and then their play session started. They chased each other around the stream and through the woods. They were having so much fun.

One way I can experience this would be to let my mind wander about where we might find a place to have our lunch, how difficult it's going to be to drive back down from the trailhead, or whether that restaurant we want to check out is going to be open by the time we get there.

Another way I can experience this would be to actually enjoy watching our dogs play.

Which one better? The answer seems obvious, but just because it's better doesn't mean that's how we experience the world. Think about how your mind works. Are you constantly lost in thought? Do you take in the good of your experiences?

If you're like I was, and most people are, you are lost in thought for most of your day. This prevents us from actually enjoying our experiences. What if I use a framework to help me experience my experiences?

We love hiking with Bingo. Bingo is six years old and probably has four more years of hiking. We go on about eight long hikes per year. Doing the math, we have 32 hikes with Bingo left (8 x 4). That knowledge helps me be present with the activities I enjoy. If I only have 32 hikes left, do I really want to spend one of them thinking about driving away from the trailhead?

Time is a Limited Resource

Here's an uncomfortable thought: we all have to die. Many of us have a deep fear of death, sometimes to the point where we do our best to not even think about it.

If you can change your mindset, you can start to realize that the fact that you will die means that it's more important to enjoy your time here while you can.

Many people look back on their lives from their deathbeds with regret and remorse. They realize they cared about the wrong things, and caring about the wrong things means that they wasted their time.

You don't have to be on your deathbed to realize that our time is limited, and everyone else's time is limited too. We have limited time, but we get to choose how to spend that time.

life is finite

The Death Attitude Profile assesses your attitudes toward death and dying. It's based on the belief that people's attitudes toward death play an important role in their overall psychological well-being and quality of life. It measures five different dimensions of death attitudes: fear of death, death avoidance, neutral acceptance, approach acceptance, and escape acceptance.

Choose Your Life

Knowing that your time (and your loved one's time) is limited, think about how you want to spend your limited days. What kind of relationships would you cultivate? What hobbies would you pursue? What is important to you? What kind of person do you want to be? What do you want to learn?

Choosing the kind of life you want and using your money to support that kind of life can give you more meaning in life. Alight your money and your values.

live intentionally

Doing the (Limited Time) Math

Living intentional means making your financial decisions with purpose and, more importantly, not making them unconsciously. Simple, right?

That, while being true, can sound a little theoretical and not very practical.

Let's make it practical. Do the math.

Think about the things you like to do and the people you like to be with. Then think about how often to get to spend your time with your loved ones, and how often to do the things you like to do. Follow this framework:

  1. Think about what you like to do and who you like spending your time with.

  2. Determine how many times per year you have the experiences you enjoy.

  3. Estimate how many years you have left to enjoy your experiences.

  4. Multiply the number of times per year by the number of years.

Let's use some examples. If you see your 78-year-old father six times per year, and he is likely to live until 80, you have two years left to spend with him. Seeing him six times a year for two years means you get to see him 12 more times (6 x 2). What do you want to do with that information?

If your kids are 12 and 10, you take one family vacation per year, and you think you'll do that until the youngest graduates college, then you have about 12 family vacations left (22 - 10). Of those 12 trips, only six of them will be before they are adults, and probably only three or four before they want to do their own thing on these trips. What will you do with that information?

Think of it this way: by doing the math to determine how many more experiences you'll have, it's kind of like getting a certain number of experience chips. Each time to have that experience you have to give up one of your chips.

This visual might help you appreciate your experiences more.

we get a limited number of experiences

Find What's Keeping You Stuck

There are some times when you know what you want to do but information isn't' enough. Knowing what to do doesn't help us if we are unable to get ourselves to do it.

In that case, you have an extra step; you need to do some work to determine what is in between you and where you want to be. Often this is because we have limiting beliefs about money. Exploring your money history is a good first step toward identifying what's in your way.

Whether there's something in your way or not, understanding that your time is limited can help you decide how to spend your time.

find out what's in your way

Don't Waste Your Time

Time is a limited resource; meaning, you don't get unlimited time. There is a maximum amount of time that we get. It's like getting a pie with all the time you have. We can't go back for more.

time is limited - we don't have unlimited time

Time is also a nonrenewable resource. Time spent doing one thing can't be spent doing something else. Once you spend it, there is no more.

Every minute you spend on social media is a minute you aren't spending with your kids. Every minute you spend glued to cable news is a minute you don't get to spend with your friends. Every minute you spend arguing with your partner is a minute you don't get to spend laughing together.

Once your time is gone, there is no more. That should change how you use your limited time and think about your life.

time is limited - you don't get it back

Doing the math helps you realize that your moments and experiences are finite and that it's really up to you to determine how to spend it. Spend it wisely.

You only have one life. Live intentionally.

Related Money Health® Reading
References and Influences

Sam Harris: Waking Up

James Lindsay: Life in Light of Death

Netflix: After Life

Jordan Peterson: 12 Rules for Life

Wait But Why: Your Life in Weeks

Note: Above is a list of references that I intentionally looked at or thought about while writing this article. It is not meant to be a definitive list of everything that influenced my thinking and writing. It's very likely that I left something out. If you notice something that you think I left out, please let me know; I will be happy to update the list.



About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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