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What’s in your life’s suitcase?

You have probably heard or read the admonition by Benjamin Franklin, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time for that is the stuff that life is made of.” Time may not actually make up life as we experience it, but certainly it is the stuff that we trade for the activities that do make up our lives.

I visualize life as a suitcase initially filled with time – a commodity that we trade for the things that we need or desire (mostly in the form of activities) during our life’s journey. Although we may have no control over the amount of time we originally have in our suitcase, the same amount of time is released for our use each day until it has been exhausted.

And use it we must. If we fail to use the full 24 hours allocated each day, it disappears regardless.

24 hours a day is more than enough for a successful journey. But we must use it wisely. Trading most of it for activities and stuff related to work, for instance, could cause our suitcase to bulge at the seams and cost us dearly. Not in terms of dollars, as it might when travelling with a real suitcase; but in terms of our health and well-being.

Our journey through life could also be cut short by the unwise use of time. Inadequate amounts of time traded for such things as sleep, exercise, renewal and relationships could actually shorten our lifespans.

The key to a long, successful and happy life is in how you use the time given to you. As you approach your destination, you don’t want to wish you had chosen differently when preparing for the journey. Some people may regret the lack of time devoted to planning for their senior years – or even their choice of travelling companions. In their haste to get on with life, they may not have used adequate time to prepare.

You wouldn’t attempt to fly any great distance without first obtaining your pilot’s license or taking extensive courses and learning the ins and outs of flying. Nor should you fly solo through life without first getting sufficient grounding in the basics of living a purposeful, fulfilling life.

Even a meaningful trip to a foreign country requires some knowledge of the people, the terrain, and the best places to visit. Most people realize that to pack for a long journey requires at least a basic knowledge of packing so that you can easily fit into your suitcase everything you acquire enroute. Therefore a knowledge of organizing is important, as is time management, since you want to trade your time for the right activities and be able to fit those things into your suitcase of life without causing stress and hardship.

Although you can’t get more time, you can get more out of the time you have by investing it in time-saving activities such as training, delegation and planning, and in time-lengthening activities such as healthy living.

If you manage your time well, you will soon have a suitcase filled with meaningful and life-enhancing activities, which eventually will be transformed into the memories of a life well-lived, and a legacy of examples that can help your offspring and others you have mentored prepare for their journey through life.

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Life is a trade-off


You can’t have everything; but you can have anything

It’s a life of trade-offs.  If you pay someone to cut the grass while you work late at the office, you’re trading one job for another.  If you’re paid overtime, you might come out ahead in the trade. If you pay someone to babysit the kids while you go on a business trip, you are again trading one activity for another. You may or may not come out ahead, depending on the frequency of the trades and how you value the two activities.

To barter effectively, you must be aware of your values. Don’t trade indiscriminately.  Determine what is important to you in life and prioritize those tasks or activities.  If something is important to you and you don’t have the time to spend on it, ask yourself what you could trade for it.  Is it really important to spend more time with the family? Perhaps you can trade money for it by taking a lower paid job with fewer hours.  Or trade recreation for it by giving up a few TV programs, computer games or time on the Internet.

Is it important to be physically fit?  Perhaps you can trade a few dinner meetings, some newspapers, a magazine or two for the time it takes to walk every morning.  Is money really important to you? Perhaps you can trade some personal time or travel time, or social activities for a part-time job.

It’s a life of trade-offs. You cannot create more time; there are only 24 hours in a day.  And it’s being completely used up already.  Sure, you can manage your time better, become more efficient, and do things faster.  But there’s a limit to how efficient you can become – even with the help of technology. The important thing to realize is that you have complete control over the use of your time.  It’s a case of sacrificing something of lesser value in order to spend the time on something more meaningful.

Time management experts will never be able to do it for you. You are the only expert there is when it comes to deciding what is important to you.  And you are the only one who really knows what it is you can give up. Sometimes the sacrifice doesn’t have to be too great. You might be able to give up shuffling papers, being indecisive, procrastinating, daydreaming and all those other timewasters that time management experts talk about.  But you’ll never eliminate them completely. And the amount of time you save may actually be negli­gible.

The real payoff is in the trade-offs.  Large chunks of time can be released by simply deciding that some things are not all that important when compared to those things that can be achieved or experienced in the same amount of time.

Want to write a book? Travel around the world? Become a lawyer, doctor or an expert in a specific discipline? Want to be president of your company? Fluent in two or three languages? A leader of your country? Want to be a successful entrepreneur? A super parent? Missionary? Prayer warrior? Million­aire? Decide what it is you really want. Then decide what you are willing to trade in order to get it.  You can’t have everything.

But you can have anything.