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Why Waste Your Life When You Don't Have to?

Bill Abbate

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How much of life do you think you will have wasted at its end? I must admit I have wasted far too much of mine in more ways than I care to confess.

Before we can begin to examine our life, a better understanding of what it means to "waste" life is needed. Do we understand everywhere waste is in life?

Finding waste in life

We can start by looking at the life we have lived so far, identify the waste, and do our best to change whatever we can moving forward. Beyond looking at our past, we must consider what we can do now and may do in the future.

This brings two questions to light. How good are we at identifying where we have squandered portions of our life? How good are we at determining where we want our life to go?

It is easy to identify the big wastes in life. It happened to me when I was working and practically lived between airports and hotels. My daughter was young at the time, and it went on for far too many years. Sure, I had the typical excuse - who doesn't want to be a good provider for their family after all?

In hindsight, I realize how much time I missed with my wife and daughter back then. This especially hit home after my wife died of cancer at 51 years old. My daughter grew up way too fast, but then they always do. If there is a single regret in my life, I did not carve out more time with the two people that mattered most to me.

Yet the past is past. There is nothing we can do to change what was. We can only learn from it and try not to repeat our mistakes.

Let's look at what we can do in the present and into the future. We will start by examining some opportunities to waste less life to live a fuller, richer existence.

Areas of waste

Waste is not always obvious and requires us to slow down once in a while to give it some thought. If you never consider how you might be wasting life, you can become stuck on the same treadmill as most people. There is ample opportunity to examine the critical areas where waste can occur. A few areas that can negatively impact the use of your life with waste include:

  • Rarely slowing down
  • Staying in your comfort zone
  • Being too negative
  • Not appreciating life
  • Living in the past or the future
  • Fostering the wrong mindset
  • Worrying about the small stuff
  • Being undisciplined
  • Overindulging
  • Not working on yourself
  • Never planning what you want to do, where you want to go, and where you will wind up in life
  • Forsaking learning
  • Not saving for your future
  • Not maintaining a healthy lifestyle

These are only a few areas of opportunity, and I am sure you can think of others. It would be a simple matter to write an article on each of the above items, but for the sake of brevity, let's look at a few as food for thought.

Example 1 - Rarely slowing down

How often do you take time to slow down and think? Most of us are guilty of this. In our busy, instant everything world, we can reclaim some of our life and our sanity by just slowing down. When you slow down, you can step back and look at what you are doing and what is happening in your life.

You can gain a better perspective when you can see the forest instead of only a few trees. You can make better decisions about what you are doing or should be doing when you slow down.

Practicing mindfulness techniques can add tremendously to your life. Most great leaps forward come from slowing down, not from non-stop activity. The bottom line is you will reduce waste in your life when you take the time to slow down and think about it.

Example 2 – Fostering the wrong mindset

There are only two fundamental mindsets in the world. One is called a fixed mindset, the other a growth mindset. When you continuously develop a growth mindset, you can unearth a tremendous amount of opportunity to take back your life and reduce waste.

Think about it - a fixed mindset restricts your life with the fear of failure. It stops you from moving forward to new things. A growth mindset opens you up to learning, trying, and failing. You know failing does not make you a failure and is part of the process of growth. A person with a growth mindset wastes far less time.

Example 3 – Never planning

Planning is one of the greatest things a person can do to reduce waste in life. Dale Carnegie once said an hour of planning saves 10 hours of doing! Imagine how much time and life is wasted by not doing this one simple thing.

Each of the above areas is a weakness. What about your strengths?

Overused strengths in life

As is true with any strength you develop, you can do more harm than good if you overuse it. You must know when to reign it in as well as when to release it. For many people, overused strengths create major waste in life.

A few often overused strengths include:

  • Diligence
  • Leadership abilities
  • Persuasion
  • Pursuit of money
  • Enthusiasm
  • Discipline
  • Patience
  • Determination
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Problem-solving
  • Socializing

Again, most of you could easily write an article or perhaps even a book about any one of these overused strengths! Following are a few examples to begin considering each.

Example 1 - Diligence

Some put so much time and effort into work they ignore what is essential to life in the long run. Things like spending time with family, not taking vacations, or ignoring their health can occur due to their busy schedule.

As mentioned previously, this was an area that created regret in my life. Please don't let it happen to you.

Example 2- Pursuit of money

This may sound strange to some, but I have known more than one person with a real problem with money – having too much of it! Some people can be so good at making and saving money it becomes too strong of a focus in their life. This strength can easily be overused when they are so focused on making money they deny their family a decent lifestyle.

They get so caught up in making more money everything else comes behind it, including their family, health, friends, and other things that make for a good life. Instead of using money to enrich life, they hoard it, thereby restricting their life. This creates an enormous waste of life.

Example 3 - Creativity

As a creative person, I have struggled with overusing this strength at times in my life. It is an area well worth working on if you are similar. We all know highly creative people who are constantly moving from one thing to the next without completing their last project. They become like a builder, building foundations all over town but never putting up buildings. This eventually bankrupts the builder, as it will your life.

Example 4 - Socializing

I have met some people who are so good at socializing they make friends instantly. I have found many such people love to socialize so much they neglect those closest to them. Some of them have wound up wasting a large portion of life ending in divorce.

It is funny a person can be so people-oriented yet neglect the most important people in their life. I chalk it up to being part of the human condition. The resulting waste is often unfortunate.

Final words

Working on waste in our lives is a skill that benefits you greatly, that regardless of age, can continue to be sharpened. Once life is wasted, you can never get it back. It is vital to learn all you can about creating less waste in life.

Give serious thought now and then about areas of life you can reduce waste. You will not only benefit from less waste, but you will also gain a great deal more life!

I wish you a full, satisfying, fruitful, and healthy life with as little waste as possible!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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