You can’t make the clock run slower; but you can slow the perceived passage of time by setting and achieving significant goals.
Just as inactive waiting makes time drag, so a slow-paced, boring, non-eventful life seems longer while you’re actually experiencing it even though it seems shorter when recalled later. For many people, the days seem to pass slowly and the years seem to fly by.
If you race through life, multitasking, cramming as many activities as possible into a day, generally time will zoom by. And when you’re in your seventies or eighties, it will seem like you have lived only half of that amount of time. That’s what I call poor time management.
But this doesn’t mean you should lead a slow, quiet, boring, non-active life with plenty of waiting and therefore appear to live longer. Because there are other factors involved, the most significant being memory. When we contemplate how fast our day or life has gone by, we are relying on our memory. And our memory is very selective. It dismisses anything it deems insignificant. We remember the important things, such as graduation from college, that car accident, our first bicycle, a winning goal scored in a soccer game, a new job and so on. Our brain doesn’t bother with all the insignificant things that happen to us, such as those thousands of emails we reviewed and deleted or the mountains of paperwork that come across our desks or those trivial tasks we worked on, or those endless hours waiting for people.
But if we have a lot of significant items in our life – if we live purposefully – we will have lots of memories, and consequently, our lives will have seemed longer. I proposed this in my first book, Making Time Work for You, back in 1981. But at that time I had no research to back me up – only personal experience. Let me quote from that book:
“Time seems to pass quickly for some, more slowly for others. For time is measured in past accomplishments. Those who look back and see few goals accomplished, few achievements, few times when they felt proud of what they have done – those people feel that life has sped by too quickly. They feel cheated. But those who look back and are flooded with memory after memory of satisfying activities, achievements, relationships, feel they have lived a long and fruitful life.
For time is not seen as minutes, hours, or days. You can’t see intangibles that have no substance. Time is seen as events. Happenings. Experiences. It’s seen as the glow on your children’s faces when you tell them you are taking them to the zoo on Saturday. It’s seen as the applauding crowd when you end your address to the home and school association. It’s seen as the first check you receive for a short story submitted to a magazine. It’s seen as that first promotion. It’s seen as the pile of congratulatory cards when you graduate from college. Time is measured in events, not seconds. Squander time, and there will be fewer events to recall. Fewer accomplishments. Fewer moments of happiness. Squander time, and you squander life.”
Of course, at the time, I was writing more for effect than for fact, but more recent brain research has proven those paragraphs to be accurate. There is a lot more to it, but leading a purposeful life, concentrating on meaningful projects and achieving significant goals can virtually expand your life.