How to See Time in Your Life?

Bill Abbate

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How much time do you spend in the past? How often are you present? How much do you think about the future? Time is an amazing thing to contemplate. Time, like a river, is always flowing forward. What is in the past flows into the present. What is in the present flows into the future. There is no stopping the flow of time.

You can't change what has happened, yet you can do something in the present that will have a role in creating your future. One thing for sure, time waits for no one, so we can only continue forward.

The better we understand time, the greater the opportunity to create the future we desire.

I love the definition of time in the Oxford Dictionary – "the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole."

Time is a single entity composed of three continuing, never-ending parts. Let's look at these three distinctions in the flow of time.

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." – Albert Einstein

The past

When spending time looking back, you can lose track of where you are going. Think about driving a car. You spend far more time looking out the windshield than the rearview or side mirrors. You couldn't drive otherwise unless you are backing up. No one wants to go through life in reverse. Better to be in drive, and it is even more efficient when you are cruising forward in overdrive.

"Always focus on the front windshield and not the rearview mirror." Colin Powell

The past is a critical component in every life. Were it not for the past, there would be no learning, no understanding, no wisdom. It is because of the past we can plan in the present for the future.

The past shows us where our heart lies. It shows our frame of mind, our attitude, and everything else about us up to this point, so long as we thoughtfully examine it. Learning from my past is the most important use I can make of it in the present. When I become curious and ask the right questions about my past, I learn who I am, what and why I did what I did. This provides me an opportunity in the present to do more or less of the same or to change course.

"Never erase your past. It shapes who you are today and will help you to be the person you'll be tomorrow." Ziad K. Abdelnour

The past is memory. We remember it by images, video, sculptures, and art, but mostly in our thoughts – our brains. The brain is an amazing creation. In the brain is stored most of the information of all that has passed. It is no wonder the oral tradition of knowledge is so critical to life.

Technology has nothing on the brain when comparing the two. According to Scientific American:

"For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television, 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years to use up all that storage."

According to Science Focus, the big four, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook, store a total of 1200 petabytes of information. It would take only 480 (1200/2.5) brains to store this vast amount of information!

As of this article's date, there are 7.594 billion people on earth, so 480 brains represent an infinitesimal portion of the potential capacity of all of the brains on earth. The brain truly is a marvel!

The past can be filled with good memories, and at the same time, filled with sadness. I love the life I had with my wife before she died, and saddened she suffered from cancer and is no longer alive. I am happy about Jane, my wife of 12 years and our wonderful past, amazing present, and hopeful about our future together.

The past is filled with many things, yet what we do now will create our future, and it can be almost anything we want it to be. Some things in our past were out of our control. Some things in the present and future will be as well, but that is no cause to be alarmed. If we learn anything from the past, it is that once it is over, it is over. There is no changing what occurred. Yet, we have control in the now and can create the future we want.

The past is past, the present is present, and the future is yet to come.

The present

The present is where the past and future converge. As the river flows in one direction due to gravity, time cannot defy the laws of physics. Time flows in only one direction – from the past through the present into the future.

The present is the point where all change begins. It is where we have some control and can alter the course of our future life. It is where we can plan. What you do in the present determines how much time you will spend on things in the future. It is commonly accepted that an hour of planning in the present saves many hours of future work.

"An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing." Dale Carnegie

Best to start planning now don't you think? As a compiler of proverbs wrote in 1790:

"No time like the present, a thousand unforeseen circumstances may interrupt you at a future time" John Trusler

Let the past be past. Do whatever it takes to rid yourself of anything that can hold you back. Now is the time to let go of past hurts, bitterness, hatred, bad habits, regrets, and anything else that can weigh you down in the future. If you carry these past events into the future, their weight will only slow you down and make forward progress more difficult.

Let the lessons be taken from the past to motivate and move you into a better future. Now, in the present, is the time to use good things from the past toward better things in the future.

The Future

The future is a double-edged sword. It brings hope on one side and despair on the other. Each of these is brought into the present, resulting from the past.

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." Albert Einstein

The future can hold hope and worry (the anxiety of despair) simultaneously in the present. Some of what we hope for may happen. Little of what we worry about will ever happen. Hope and dread come from thoughts and conditioning of the past, into the present, projected into the future.

While hope can help us act in the present, worry can stop us in our tracks. Almost all worry in the present happens because of expectations of outcomes in the future. Most of the things we worry about have yet to happen and most likely never will.

Despite the chance that a worry may come true is so small, too many of us choose to worry anyway. Like it or not, it's part of the human condition.

"I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened." Mark Twain

Instead of focusing on the bad that could happen, focus on the hope of what you can do. In other words, don't waste time focusing on what you can't control, invest time focusing on what you can control.

"Stop worrying about what can go wrong, and get excited about what can go right." Anonymous

Final thoughts

What you do with your time - past, present, and future - is always your decision. Only you and no one else can spend your time for you after all.

Your past, present, and future determine your life.

"Declare the past, diagnose the present, foretell the future." Hippocrates

What you do with your time is serious business. A word from the wise is:

"I just want people to take a step back, take a deep breath, and actually look at something with a different perspective. But most people will never do that." Brian McKnight

Don't be one of those who never stop long enough to sort out their time and life. Become one of the few that makes the best use of their time, for yourself, and for those you love.

I leave you with a final quote on which to contemplate.

"The future hasn't happened yet and the past is gone. So I think the only moment we have is right here and now, and I try to make the best of those moments, the moments that I'm in." Annie Lennox

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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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