“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
— Benjamin Franklin
I recently received a thank you email from a reader and course student named Hope. She said our work helped motivate her through an arduous recovery process following a serious car accident last year. Although her entire story was both heartbreaking and inspiring, this one line made me pause and think:
“The happiest moment of my life is still that split-second a year ago when, as I laid crushed under a 2000 pound car, I realized my husband and 9-year-old boy were out of the vehicle and absolutely OK.”
Dire moments like this force us to acknowledge what’s truly important to us. In Hope’s case, it was her husband and son. And in the remainder of her email she talks about how her family spends significantly more time together now, sharing daily stories, telling little jokes, and appreciating each other’s company. “The accident made us realize how much time we had been wasting every day on things that weren’t important, which prevented us from spending quality time with each other,” she said.
It’s hard to think about a story like Hope’s and not ask yourself: What do I need to stop wasting time on?
Here are some things to consider that I’ve been examining in my own life:
- Distractions that keep you from special moments with special people. – Pay attention to the little things, because when you really miss someone you miss the little things the most, like just laughing together. Go for long walks. Indulge in great conversations. Count your mutual blessings. Let go for a little while and just BE together.
- Compulsive busyness. – Schedule time every day to not be busy. Have dedicated downtime – clear points in the day to reflect, rest, and recharge. Don’t fool yourself; you’re not so busy that you can’t afford a few minutes of sanity.
- Negative thinking about your current situation. – Life is like a mirror; we get the best results when we smile. So talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems. Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there.
- The needless drama around you. – Be wise enough to walk away from the nonsense around you. Focus on the positives, and soon the negatives will be harder to see.
- The desire for everything you don’t have. – No, you won’t always get exactly what you want, but remember this: There are lots of people who will never have what you have right now. The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for. Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.
- Comparing yourself to everyone else. – Social comparison is the thief of happiness. You could spend a lifetime worrying about what others have, but it wouldn’t get you anything.
- Thinking about who you were or what you had in the past. – You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago. You’re always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life.
- Worrying about the mistakes you’ve made. – It’s OK if you mess up; that’s how you get wiser. Give yourself a break. Don’t give up. Great things take time, and you’re getting there. Let your mistakes be your motivation, not your excuses. Decide right now that negative experiences from your past won’t predict your future.
- Worrying about what everyone thinks and says about you. – Don’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of you; they do things because of them. You honestly can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react and who you choose to be around.
- Self-deception. – Your life will improve only when you take small chances. And the first and most difficult chance you can take is to be honest with yourself.
- A life path that doesn’t feel right. – Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. When you truly believe in what you’re doing, it shows, and it pays. Success in life is for those who are excited about where they are going. It’s about walking comfortably in your own shoes, in the direction of YOUR dreams.
- Everyone else’s definition of success and happiness. – You simply can’t base your idea of success and happiness on other people’s opinions and expectations.
- Those who insist on using and manipulating you. – What you allow is what will continue. Give as much as you can, but don’t allow yourself to be used. Listen to others closely, but don’t lose your own voice in the process. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Boundaries & Expectations” chapter of “1,000 Little Habits of Happy, Successful Relationships”.)
- Trying to impress everyone. – One of the most freeing things we learn in life is that we don’t have to like everyone, everyone doesn’t have to like us, and that’s perfectly OK. No matter how you live, someone will be disappointed. So just live your truth and be sure YOU aren’t the one who is disappointed in the end.
- All the fears holding you back. – Fear is a feeling, not a fact. The best way to gain strength and self-confidence is to do what you’re afraid to do. Dare to change and grow. In the end, there is only one thing that makes a dream completely impossible to achieve: Lack of action based on the fear of failure.
- Doubting and second-guessing yourself. – When in doubt just take the next small step. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.
- People who continuously dump on your dreams. – It’s better to be lonely than to allow negative people derail you from your sanity. Don’t let others crush your mood or dreams. Do just once what they say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their negativity again.
- Thinking the perfect time will come. – You can’t always wait for the perfect moment. Sometimes you must dare to do it because life is too short to wonder what could have been.
- Band-Aids and temporary fixes. – You can’t change what you refuse to confront. You can’t find peace by avoiding things. Deal with problems directly before they deal with your long-term happiness. Build sustainable habits that move your life forward. (Angel and I build small, life-changing daily habits with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy course. And we’d be truly honored to work with YOU.)
- Close-minded judgments. – Open your mind before you open your mouth. Don’t hate what you don’t know. The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.
- Other people’s mistakes and oversights. – Today, be tolerant of people’s mistakes and oversights. Sometimes good people make bad choices. It doesn’t mean they’re bad; it simply means they are human.
- Resentment. – Kindness is not to be mistaken for weakness, nor forgiveness for acceptance. It’s about knowing that resentment is not on the path to happiness. Remember, you don’t forgive people because you’re weak. You forgive them because you’re strong enough to know that people make mistakes.
- Any hateful thoughts at all. – Set an example. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are. Make kindness a daily habit; it’s what makes life happier and more fulfilling in the long run.
- Regrets of any kind. – You don’t have to be defined by the things you once did or didn’t do. Don’t let yourself be controlled by regret. Maybe there’s something you could have done differently, or maybe not. Either way, it’s merely something that has already happened. Leave the unchangeable past behind you as you give yourself to the present moment.
- Every point in time other than right now. – Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress too much about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Do your best to live NOW and make this moment worth living.
Now, it’s your turn…
Truth be told, the most important decision you will ever make is what you do with the time that is given to you. So let’s revisit the question I proposed in the intro: What do you need to stop wasting time on?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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Wow, I needed this! Helping me refocus my focus and priorities today.
We love you here in Jamaica. 🙂 Your emails, posts and books inspire me and my family.
Ps. I also really appreciate the live zoom support and coaching you and Angel provided through your course. Didn’t expect that. Super cool to speak with you both the other day!
This post reminds me of the “To-Don’t” concept you discuss in the Productivity chapter of your 1,000 Little Things book.
I’m always struggling with #9 – worrying about what other people think of me. I need to stop this. I know doing so can help give me the space and freedom to be who I really am. I like to remind myself of the following quote from your book whenever I start wondering what others think of me:
“If someone calls you something and it’s true, it’s not your problem because it’s true. If someone calls you something and it’s not true, it’s not your problem because it’s not true. Either way, what they call you is not your problem. What others call you is their problem. What you call yourself, and who you decide to become, is your problem.”
Karleen L Goodwin says
YES!!! So we’ll said!!!
I need to stop worrying/over-thinking and stressing about the future! There really is no point because it hasn’t even happened yet and I can’t control it so I just need to stop! Thank you for reminding me. Your emails and articles center my thinking.
Susan Rae says
I would add “Stop wasting time trying to control everything” or “Stop wasting time trying to be perfect.” Or to state it a little more positively, be more open and spontaneous and watch wonderful things happen on their own. This is something I struggle with, but I’m getting better and better.
Thanks for another helpful post, Marc and Angel.
Jeff Ray says
I especially needed to hear number 7 today – filling every waking moment with activity. I do number 7 a lot and this was just what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it! Time to create some downtime for myself.
I continue to love the insight I get from your writing. You have a way with words that I don’t find anywhere else. Besides your blog, I am also enjoying your audiobooks these days during my commutes… I put one of them on for 10-15 minutes and it always gives me something interesting to think about. Thanks for that.
Melissa Webster says
I’d add stop wasting time maintaining the status quo when it’s run its course and no longer suits you.
I’m still working on doubting and second-guessing myself, but taking small steps forward despite it.
Great list! Thank you.
I think I really need to tell a few people how much I love them. As I’m approaching 40, I don’t think I have told them enough. Thanks again for a great reminder : )
Jason Herrington says
“Thinking the perfect time will come.” …. an elusive ideal whose time never comes. The lights won’t all be green on the highway of life. All you have is now, and now is all you need. Begin today, progress is always better than perfection.
The opening story brought tears to my eyes and made me think of my own lovely children. This post is so true and well-written and every now and again we just need reminding. So a huge and heartfelt thank you for such amazing and touching insights.
Sandy Peckinpah says
Number 15 – “Fear is a feeling, not a fact.” That’s really profoundly important! I can think of so many things in my life that fear stole from me until I realized it was just an emotion. I remember seeing Will Smith on Oprah and she asked him if it felt good to have money. He said he still goes to bed every night worrying about money. It had been that way his whole life. That really hit me. Lack of money wasn’t causing his fear. It was just the feeling!
I also loved ‘fear is a feeling, not a fact’… I’m 58 now. I spent the first half of my life both timid and intimidated, and much of the next quarter facing this mistake. I must always remind myself that I am not who I was or who I might want to be, but I am who I am. 🙂
What a beautiful post!
Dave Nordella says
The # 1 item on your list is my first priority in my personal development.
Loving our family and friends is the greatest gift that God gives us every day.
Sharing and bonding with the ones that you love is the best way to show your appreciation.
Giving love and attention is the best gift that we can give to the people that matter to us.
Thank you for this wonderful reminder! #gratitude
A truly fantastic list. As I tried to think of my own ones, I discovered most of them were already there!
But here are a few I would add:
1. Being cynical. Cynicism is always possible, but is always negative. There are times we need to be skeptical and not go jumping into anything that seems too good to be true. But cynicism comes from an assumption that the world is out to get you, that you know better and that there is no beauty or joy to be found in everything. Decide not to indulge in cynicism. And look for the beauty in any moment, in any object, in any person.
2. Stop avoiding painful feelings. We often tell ourselves we ‘should’ feel more optimistic, be over our grief, not be angry. But the more we squash our feelings, the more they insist upon jumping out at the worst times. Find time to listen deeply to what is true for you. Accept yourself as worthy whatever that feeling is. In time (perhaps immediately) it will shift.
3. Don’t worry about your worthiness. Assume people will say yes when you offer them the chance to work with you. Assume that connecting with you is an honor, just as you connecting with another person is an honor too.
4. Avoiding the new / things you don’t know how to do yet. We are all beginners in most things in life. Bring that beginners mind to all you do and let yourself off the hook for failure, welcome help and advice, try things out without judging the outcome. Doing something new expands your horizons, your skill, your courage and your connections. Humans are build for learning. So learn without worry.
#2…..spot on. My grief, or lack of grieving, and avoiding it has consumed me. It’s hard not to ‘cry over the past’; when the past is still so fresh. I would also add relationships. Wasting your time with someone you truly see no future with is pointless. You are missing out on figuring out who you are, what you want, and searching through the possibilities.
Wonderful additions! Thank you for posting them.
Martha Brettschneider says
You always do such a fabulous job of detailing the many ways we get in the way of our own growth. Every point in your list relates in some way to our ego having control of the steering wheel, as well as what Eckhart Tolle refers to as the “Pain Body” in ourselves and others.
Our truest, best selves reside below our egos. And the awful person we sometimes become (or come across in others) is also not who we (or they) truly are. Once we learn to dissolve our egos and see through–and forgive–the pain in ourselves and others, we stop wasting time on doubt, comparisons and resentment. Life becomes lighter, freer, and much much happier.
I need to stop wasting time on my past life of everything. Yes, we all do change, our circumstances, our lives, our wants and needs.
I have finally accepted the fact that I can not change the past, and the only thing I can do is try to focus on a different future, however long it may take. Again I say, one day at a time.
Thank you Marc. Reading your insightful words offer comfort. Also thanks to all the others who comment. Each of you offers a different perspective on a common problem.
Towards the end of of my 40’s I felt a bit stuck in my efforts to achieve my goals for the year and realized that most of my time and effort had been focused on “prevention” – trying to prevent various negative outcomes.
So I’ve been focusing on switching my perspective to more of a growth mindset… getting better results, feeling more stoked and enjoying all those exquisite little moments each day brings when I’m present enough to notice them. Great post Marc, thanks for the reminders.
There are so many things that I have wasted my time on. Someone above made a point about waiting for other people. I am guilty of that! When someone says that they will call me or stop by, I will no longer wait all day for that person.
Over the course of my life I have improved significantly with #3, Negative Thinking about a current situation. What is ironic is my mom, and sometimes my aunt who used to criticize me for low-self esteem will now make a mountain out of mole hill. If people would not waste time and energy on being negative about everything, my family would be better with #1. While our families who are in town sometimes do spend time together, it is only because of an arising occasion or holiday. It is really sad that people in our family don’t make the time to spend time together or make special moments. Looking at things as an adult, I think it because there needed to be a reason or don’t do it at all. Or using family time to nit-pick at people’s personal lives. My family is guilty of gossiping about people and “mistakes” or choices that they have made.
I was also raised with the impression that I always needed to be busy. So #2 Compulsive Busyness is a big problem. My mom always focused on housework, so for me, we did not spend a lot of quality time together as mother-daughter. My mom tries to use things such as family or church events as the way to make time together. To me, that doesn’t really count because it is then about church. Unfortunately, what I remember the most is my mom either yelling at me a lot or putting me down in front of other people. I am sure that is a big factor in why we do not have a healthy relationship.
Don’t spend time with people who feel the need to put a political label on everything. Everything is polarized through the media, so people will feed on that and brand everything as Liberal or Conservative. There are a handful of people in my family who do that. I don’t always look forward to spending time with them because of that reason.
Jana L. Sheeder says
Big time waster? Putting yourself LAST. Only doing for yourself after you’re exhausted and have given all you’ve got. It’s PHENOMENAL to do for others, but don’t forget YOU and your sense of SELF.
Don’t know if this applies to anyone else, but this helps me to remind myself…
If it doesn’t serve you, walk away from it. You can’t be good for anyone or anything else without being good to yourself, first. Stop always sacrificing your own needs and spending time doing for everyone else — your time and desires are important, also.
Start putting your own desires and priorities in front of those of others, since only when you have accomplished your own items can you feel free to help others with theirs. Every piece of yourself that you give to help others (when you aren’t caring for yourself) only takes from you. If you’re not 100%, you can’t do for yourself or anyone else…
Stop self-sacrificing. Put your foot down. No one will think any less of you. If they complain, that’s THEIR problem, not yours. (They are only angry that you’re finding yourself and are not going to be doing everything for them all the time.) You deserve better than you allow yourself. You’ll have more respect for yourself…and more time…as soon as you stop sacrificing your SELF!
Stop wasting time criticizing yourself, and start applauding and appreciating yourself for all that you do…and for who you are. Hey, you! The person reading this post! Yeah, you! You’re awesome, by the way! (Have a good day!! 😉 )
jan conwell says
Do you have any plans or options to produce a hard copy of your newest book in Australia? I am 72 years old and very impressed by your blog entries however I am very handicapped when it comes to new technology. I would require a printed, hold in my hand, turn the pages book. If it is available here please let me know.
You both are to be commended for sharing your fantastic outlook on life. I only regret that I am learning so much about living so late in my life. If people will listen, pay attention and use these methods, the next generation will be extraordinary.
Thank you for sharing.
It’s almost embarrassing how many times I need these same little reminders. But I do. And I’m grateful that you continue to provide them. Live now. It shouldn’t be so hard. But I have to confess the difficulty in always being motivated to follow my intuition AND to let go. When in some cases, my intuition is screaming “don’t let go.”
Life is a battle and a balance I guess. Thanks.
I wanted to add: stop trying to prove yourself to other people. If you have lots of money, do good with it but not everyone needs to know that. If you are really smart, people will see that; you do not need to tell them. If you have a “prestigious” job, great, but don’t feel the need to share that with everyone. Your sexual orientation? Don’t confront everyone about that. Just be yourself. If you do that, you will be happier and people will recognize that contentment and joy in you. You will not need to tell them.
Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.
Don’t take council of your fears.
Carol W says
What a wonderful post. The one that I find myself doing the most is worrying about what other people say and think about me. I work in a very gossip-heavy environment. It’s really hard not to take things personal, but I’m trying.
Sylvia Metos says
Thanks for a wonderful post. I believe that I’m guilty of allowing myself to participate in each and every item on your list. However…I’m getting much better in spending time with the ones I love, in accepting who I am at the moment (warts and all), and in believing that we grow into better human beings as we make mistakes along the way! I’m not perfect (never gave been, never will be). One important insight that has crept inyo my head lately is that we simply need each other.
Again, many thanks!
This is so relevant to me & my family right now; our mom has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and I am trying to learn to live in the moment. I have to travel 1500 miles to see her–so the moments I do get to spend with her are precious, beyond measure.
Thank you for this reminder; I hope it helps others too.
Hi, I just wanted to let you know that your blog is the one thing that has been helping me steadily move past my regrets, mistakes and the gradual self destruction of the life I built for myself. I’m not going to delve into any of sad stories here, we all have them. I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for existing and making a difference. That’s all.
Don Steiner says
Grudges — and the seeking of revenge — are a terrible waste of time. Carrying hatred or resentment gives the person who harmed or offended you control over your happiness. They have done so once already — don’t turn over the rest of your life’s happiness to them as well! Forgiveness is the key to restoring your own sense of contentment and frees you from the bondage of the past harms done to you. We all get hurt, some worse than others, but you have to let go of it so you can focus on present and future opportunities for joy instead of wallowing in miseries of the past.
Thank you Marc and Angel for your inspirational words! Your blog has helped me through very difficult moments in my life and living each day with positive thoughts has helped me become a better person and view each day as a blessing! Thank you for inspiring people to pursue their goals and accept who they truly are!
Mari Smith says
Marc and Angel – I just love you two bright souls. Thank you for bringing your gifts to the world so beautifully and eloquently. I shared your post on Facebook today – clearly so many of us need to hear this message of empowerment. :* xxx
“You CAN have it all [your definition] just not at the same time” great advise given to me when I was struggling with working full time, my desire to volunteer and the guilt of leaving my new baby in daycare. In the end we chose to work it out to keep me home full time. Then, when the time was right I reentered the work force less stressed and happier. Once my children moved on with their lives following their own paths, I started volunteering again. You can have it all, just not simultaneously.
Great article that more people need to read. I used to waste a lot of time watching TV. now I’ve substituted my love of watching by watching documentaries and movies that have relevance to people and the world we live in. It’s about trying to educate myself about real issues. We live in an era where time wasting has become an art or job itself. There’s so many ways to waste time. But there is also many more ways to use time wisely, to improve oneself, understand the finer points in life and make a positive impact on society.
I need to stop worrying about mistakes I made when I was just entering my teenage years. I’m sick of feeling like crap everyday for a mistake I made when I was barley 14. I know I’m better than my past and I know God has a great future in store for me.
This was truly a wonderful post! I had just stumbled upon your blog, looking for some inspirational and uplifting thoughts. I am glad to say that your insights really put everything in perspective and made me reflect on what’s important in life. Thank you so much, Marc! Good people like you are what keep this world going round.
Also, I never commented on a blog before, but the way your words spoke to me compelled me to sincerely thank you. 🙂
Sunny J says
I have learned a lot from your first two books and just got your third one on relationships. Just wanted to leave a quick comment to say thanks. And of course, the reminders in this post are wonderful. Greatly appreciated.
Terri Delaney says
What a great list and I do believe I’ve conquered almost all of them! Some may need a little refresher but they’re all great (and true)! One other thing I know I need to stop wasting time on is giving my advice to others and give it to myself! WOW!
Great article Angel & Marc – I am guilty of many of these and especially in the past year seem to have lost my focus (and energy) I once had – great reminders to keep being positive and treating people with respect (even if that respect is not reciprocated sometimes) – to love only today & forgive and appreciate yourself and keep going on your own path.
Really enjoy the articles – so helpful!
I want to add a simple thank you for the thoughtfulness of your writing. You’ve obviously taken time to chose your words carefully and it makes such a difference. All of your emails and posts are powerful life changers. They are making a difference.
Linda Knower says
Re #22 on forgiveness: “nor forgiveness for acceptance.” I see forgiveness differently. It does not fix anything that happened and will not be thought of as kindness necessarily on your part if you tell the person you have forgiven them – I often don’t tell people I have forgiven them unless the want to have a dialogue about it. When you haven’t forgiven someone, (IMHO) you hold on to hope that the past hurts can be fixed or that person will have regrets and possibly apologize. I finally gave that up with my Mother and forgave her for all the things she did and for being who she was. I didn’t tell her. It was the most freeing thing I’ve ever done. Instead of never being myself around her because I was always guarding against hurtful behavior, I could (for the most part) relax at last. And (!!!) I was free to no longer accept bad behavior from her (belittling comments or telling stories about me in front of friends that were complete lies). I called her on it the moment she did it – even in front of others – not in a shaming or negative way, but by being factual and asking her to consider how it made me feel. She didn’t change herself, but she learned that I had boundaries and behaved much better in public after being challenged several times. So I feel that forgiveness is one of the ultimate freeing tools and that acceptance of the other person as they were and are is the key. It will not fix the past, but at last you can stop living there – even if the other person still does. It frees up time and difficult emotions with others that you can let go of – that’s a lot of real estate if it’s a family member.
I always waste my time thinking about the past. Even though I don’t want to, I get myself thinking about “would-have-beens”, “could-have-beens” and “should-have-beens”. I’ve been struggling so hard to remember that the time is now, I still have the chance to do things differently, but I’m sure I will get there, things will change for the better.
Regards from Brazil
When I read the title of this post, I thought it would be about time management techniques (I.e. time blocking, scheduling etc.) but I was actually pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t about that. The story at the beginning really gave meaning to the points below as I had it at the back of my mind while I was reading it. I think one tip I would suggest is to not schedule everything in your life, take time out to sit back and watch events as they go by. I really enjoyed reading this post, and it has inspired me to write something similar on my website. Thank you!