How do you relate to Time?

Your Most Important Relationship

March 27, 202419 min read

Your Most Important Relationship


The Secret of Life

Life becomes more meaningful when you know that the moment you live a moment, it’s gone forever.  You can never get it back.  Wasted time is one of the biggest crimes you can commit against yourself.

Today we’re going to talk about what is perhaps your most important relationship.  I’m fine with you arguing that your most important relationship is with God or with yourself.  That’s cool.  We’re going to talk about something different that’s been on my mind a lot lately.  First, let’s talk about the secret of life.  What would you say it is?  When I hear that, I immediately think of that Faith Hill song: the secret of life is a good cup of coffee, the secret of life is staying up late.  Really, that’s it?  I had to look up the lyrics because I was like “that’s really how it goes, right?  Seems kind of lame.”  And it does, but it’s “the secret of life is a good cup of coffee, the secret of life is keep your eye on the ball…The secret of life is getting up early, the secret of life is staying up late.  The secret of life is try not to hurry, but don’t wait, don’t wait. The secret of life is there ain’t no secret, the secret of life is nothin’ at all.”

That song is really familiar to me because it came out in 1998 when I was 18 and listening to the radio all the time.  Completely unfamiliar to me is a James Taylor song that says “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.  Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothin’ to it…the thing about time is that time isn’t really real.”  What do you think?  Is the secret of life enjoying the passage of time?  Or is the secret of life that there ain’t no secret? 

What’s not a secret is that the most important factor in our longevity and happiness is our relationships.  Relationships are everything in life, and today we’re going to talk about a relationship that you may have been neglecting up till now.  That ends today.  I think it’s useful to your flourishing and your healthspan to nurture your relationship with time.  Have you even given much thought to your relationship with time before?  Have you thought of yourself as being in a relationship to time?

First of all, we need to remember that time is finite.  There is an expiration date on every experience and part of our life.  Memento Mori - remember death.  Remembering that time is running out for all of us actually makes us happier.  Did you ever hang the pictures of decaying corpses up in your house like we talked about in episode 128?  No?  What?  It does make our lives more enjoyable to remember that they’re going to end.  Time is our most precious resource because we can never replenish it.  There are no do overs.  High achievers know that you must respect the nature of time and that your relationship with time profoundly affects how far you will go in life.

Your Perception of Time

There are a few ways to think about our relationship to time.  One of them is in our perception of time.  Some people, like James Taylor, say that time isn’t really real.  Others say it’s the most real thing there is.  What do you think?  I think it’s both.  What we do know is that there’s a difference between clock time and our perception of time.  Einstein said that “a minute sitting on a hot stove feels like an hour and an hour spent with your beloved feels like a minute.”  We’ve all felt this.  Some things seem to take forever and we keep checking the clock every 45 minutes to find out it’s only been 4 or 5 minutes ahhh.  And sometimes the time has flown by and there’s no way it could have been 2 hours, it felt like 10 minutes.  

Ed Mylett, high performer and author of the book “The Power of One More” says “Everyone accepts that there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day.  Not if you’re a high performer.”  He says you can bend time to your will and get 3 days in 24 hours.   That’s how he lives his life, and what he attributes most of his success to.  He says he lives 21 days while everyone else lives 7.  He splits his 24 hours up into what he thinks of as 3 days (6am-noon, noon to 6pm and 6pm to midnight).  He says he triples his productivity by PERCEIVING time differently.   

He says your relationship is not with time itself, but with your PERCEPTION of time.  Time is a constant, but we perceive it as a variable!   “Mind time” is different than “clock time,” and our sense of who we are and what we’re capable of has to do with our mind time.  You can purposely alter the way you perceive time to bend reality and make your life better.  What do you think?

Ed says that we can compress time and approach our goals with more intensity when they’re closer up.  When your day is almost over at noon, you’re able to sprint to the finish and complete something by noon that you normally would’ve taken till 6pm to finish.  I do believe in Parkinson’s law - that your work will expand to fill the time you’ve allotted to do it.  I’ll admit that I haven’t yet mastered the skill of setting myself a short period of time to complete something and then actually producing the outcome I want in that amount of time, but I’m working on it and can see that it would be powerful if I could.

Ed says that creating shorter days (the whole living 3 days in 24 hours thing) makes each minute more valuable.  It gives you a good sense of urgency that propels you forward.  You’ll be more focused and intense.  You can still make time for all parts of life, including relaxation, you’ll just squeeze the useless air out of the in between times.  He says you’ll move faster and have greater control over your life when you live 1,000 days in the same time as others live 365.

It’s an interesting concept that I’ve never heard of before and at first I thought that I kind of don’t like it.  I’m not sure that I want to live every minute of my day in a sense of urgency.  But I’ve been percolating on it for a couple of weeks now, and I’m starting to love it more and more.  I haven’t gone all in on it- I’m not even sure how I would, to be honest- but I have started thinking of my days as at least 2 days, and I do kind of love the mental energy of thinking “Oh yes, I need to do that, but I can’t interrupt what I’m doing right now- I’ll do it tomorrow” - Tomorrow being an hour and a half from now.  And knowing that I have to finish something TODAY and that today ends in a couple of hours is helpful.

I’ve even been better able to remember to do some of the morning routine stuff that I love but is kind of time consuming by doing one or two of those things as part of the morning of my second day (so like around noon).  And it feels good, too.  And I love saying “shutdown complete” on my first day when it’s time for lunch, because I feel totally free for a little while before my second day starts.  And I have more energy to start my day (my second day) than if it’s just the after lunch part of a long day.  I’ll keep working with it and see how it evolves.  But I do like the idea of bending reality to make my life better.

5 Principles of Time Management

Adding more days to your day is the first of Ed Mylett’s 5 principles of time management.  His second is to approach time with a greater sense of urgency.  Again, I have no desire to feel frantic, but I do think that the best way to respect time and develop a healthy relationship with it is to make the most of the little bit of it that we’ve been gifted.  There is a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer that says  “The common man is not concerned about the passage of time.  The man of talent is driven by it.”  The third rule is to Learn how to control time instead of time controlling you.  I think this plays into your relationship with time, because you can become the master of time instead of the servant of it.  This is about learning to dictate the terms of your day and not allowing others to dictate your priorities for you.  

Ed’s fourth principle is to measure performance often.  When performance is measured, performance improves.  And when performance is measured in close proximity to action, performance improves even more.  This is so true- immediate feedback is exponentially more valuable than a result report that you get way later.  It’s part of what makes working toward the goal of creating amazing health 30 years from now so challenging.  Top performers measure themselves frequently.  The fifth principle is to focus on the future.  Dream and imagine your future while taking decisive action in the present.  Don’t waste time in the past.  

You Create Time

Ed says that when people see that you never waste time, they’ll stop trying to waste your time for you, they’ll see you in attack mode and respect that.  I think that’s awesome, a nice way to say without having to say “no, I’m not interested in your nonsense, thank you.”  Ed says that as you change your approach to time, you’ll be led to meeting new people that will upgrade your life.  He also says that  “If you can embrace these 5 principles, you can enjoy more success, make more money, be more productive, add layers of bliss, and build the life you were meant to enjoy.”  Pretty bold promise.  Do you think it’s true?  

Gay Hendricks also talks about our relationship to time in “The Big Leap.”  I love his concept of “Einstein Time” and then I keep forgetting about it and then being reminded of it, and I’m like “Oh ya, I like Einstein Time.”  So, what Gay Hendricks says is that most people have a victim relationship with time.  They think time is their enemy and there’s never enough of it.  Einstein once said that “a minute sitting on a hot stove feels like an hour and an hour spent with your beloved feels like a minute.”  Which is where he came up with the name “Einstein Time.”  Gay says that when you’re metaphorically sitting on a hot stove, you’re contracting away from your experience, creating time as a binding experience.  When you’re with your beloved, you're completely open to your experience and time becomes liberating.  Hard to be completely open to the experience of sitting on a hot stove for a whole minute, but I guess that’s the goal.

Living from the ownership position and believing you create the time you need is kinda woo-woo but it has to do with the “clock time” vs “mind time” thing.  When you feel yourself getting stressed about time you can remind yourself not to contract away from  your experience and to believe that you have all the time you need.  I’ve done it a lot of times when I’m stuck in traffic and getting stressed about time and I do think it’s helpful.  Accepting what is allows more power to flow to you.   You can’t change clock time but you can bend reality by changing your perception of time and your reaction to that perception.  Make sense?

The Way You Talk About Time

talk about time

Gay also talks about your relationship with time being manifest in the way you talk about time.  Saying things like “I don’t have enough time” or “I’ve run out of time” makes you a victim of time scarcity.  Watch your words.  This reminds me of someone named Laura Helgoe.  I first heard about her when someone mentioned that she once said “I like to party!  (And by party, I mean go home and read books.)” Haha.  Isn’t that the best?  That’s my kind of party for sure.  She wrote a book called “Introvert Power” and in it she says “We have built an entire mythology around the idea that there is no time, using phrases ike “running out of time” without thought.  Do we really run out of time?  Or do we run time out?  And who thought of the term “Deadline”?  Are we really supposed to be motivated by fear, by the idea that there is not enough, by poverty?  

“When I published my first book and we were doing my final revisions, I was floored when the editor nonchalantly informed me of the “drop dead date”- the date when everything absolutely had to be in.  This was a real industry term!  But the associations between unproductive time and death don’t stop there.  Stop to reflect and you are “killing time.”  Such violent language is enough to make anyone anxious!  What if we called the target date the “birth time” instead?  Birthing happens when the project - the baby - is ready.  Most of the work happens inside, naturally.  The pressure builds until that little life just has to come out.  But, as opposed to a deadline the pressure is internal.  A terrified woman in the throes of labor may want to call the whole thing off, but the creative process takes over, and she is soon looking into the eyes of a completely new human being.” 

Isn’t that so good?  We use violent language to describe our victim-state relationship to time and attempt to scare ourselves into completing tasks by calling them “deadlines” or assigning a “drop dead date” but we all live our lives as if we aren’t going to die.  I mean, you never hung those decaying corpse pictures in your house, right?  We don’t usually take death very seriously or feel a sense of urgency from itBut for all of us who have been pregnant before you know that there’s no procrastinating a birth date.  When that baby’s fully formed, she’s coming out.  Something about to be born feels much more urgent (and exciting) than a deadline.  How can you change your relationship to time by changing the way you talk about time?  Would your life be different if you stopped saying you don’t have time or are running out of time or that you’re worried about your deadline?

Understanding The Nature of Time

In his new book “Lessons for Living,” Phil Stutz says “Time seems impossible to deal with because we fundamentally misunderstand its nature and its significance.  Although we covet time, we don’t treat it with respect.  As if it’s an object that we can buy and sell, something we can get on top of and control.”   We lose the battle against time by thinking there is a way to get on top of and control time.  There’s not.  

Here’s more of what Phil brilliantly says: “We have forgotten that time is sacred.  To the ancients, time was a gift of the gods, to be treated with awe and reverence.  Elders were respected because they had aged in the stream of time.  Time was to be appreciated.  In time, all things are in a rhythmic nature, ebbing and flowing.  In our culture, we have a contempt for all things that take time.  Youth is prized because it hasn’t been exposed to time.  Success won after long effort is less desirable than instantaneous good luck.  We can’t even tolerate brief periods of time without being gratified in some way.”  

He says so many other great things that could be explored for hours, like time affects how we relate with one another, so people who cannot respect time cannot respect each other. And that time is the ultimate creative force that makes impossible things possible.  We have lost our sacred relationship to time because we don’t honor the inescapable rhythms of time that were easier to honor when we lived off the land in a tribal culture.  Our ancestors’ rituals were how they related with time and what added meaning back to their lives.  

How To Develop A Better Relationship With Time

Phil says there are ways to regain a positive relationship with time, but our culture and surroundings make it hard for us.  It’ll feel inconvenient.  That’s OK.  And that without improving our relationship to time via rituals, we will continue to live in a frantic, meaningless world trying desperately to catch up and not knowing what’s wrong.  Does that sound like you?  Desperately trying to catch up and not knowing what’s wrong?  Could it be that honoring the sacredness of time via some rituals could make your life better?

The tools that Phil suggests will restore our relationship to time are submission, commitment and patience.  These are the ways to respect the importance of time and, by so doing, add meaning back to your lifeSubmission has to do with your ego and not wanting to have to be restricted to doing a certain thing.  But true freedom only comes when you make your activities more sacred than your personal desire for immediate gratification.  

Commitment is about connecting the past, present and future.  If you honor the future and make a promise to yourself to do something at 10:15, when 10:15 comes, you honor the past and use it as an opportunity to prove to yourself that you keep your commitments.  Without honoring the future by making commitments and the past by keeping those commitments with precision (in the present), life isn’t part of a continuum of time and thus becomes a meaningless series of unconnected events.  He says true confidence only comes when you feel yourself function properly within the continuum of time.

Patience has to do with accepting that everything needs to be created within the rhythm of time and that the universe is constantly expanding.  Phil Stutz likes you to imagine all kinds of things as a way to get you to take action.  It’s kind of weird, but also useful.  He says if you imagine father time, most people see him as threatening.  Even little kids who have an abundance of time will agree that he’s kind of scary.  He’s powerful, but he’s only threatening when you resist him.

If you submit to him and develop a dutiful relationship to him, you can share in his powers.  Every time you submit to father time, that act of submissive limitation gives you power.  Power to make more of the time you have.  You’ll feel a deeper meaning in what you do and gain more access to creative ideas. Time is on your side when you don’t waste, squander, disrespect or resist it.  When you stop thinking of it as a commodity that you can control or horde or dominate.  It’s not easy, but the discipline required is what gives life meaning.  My favorite definition of discipline is Phil Stutz’s definition: discipline is the correct relationship to time.  What is discipline?  The correct relationship to time.  Phil also says that “if spiritual practices are like fruit in an orchard, discipline is the box we use to carry the fruit home.”  So good.

With this subject being top of mind, I was listening to a religious book the other day (by Thomas McKonkie) who said that “our relationship to time is a direct relationship to eternity.  If we can’t accept eternity on its own terms right now, who says we’re going to be able to accept it later?  We run the risk of continually rejecting the glory of now.  Wrongly supposing that a more agreeable now will come later.  It will not.”  So he’s saying that our willingness to accept the limitations of life as it is now is part of our relationship to time and to the reality of the slow nature of our stepwise eternal progression.  I see it as part of patience.  Patience with ourself and with the limitations of humanness.  Life feels messy and confusing and hard.  It’s supposed to.  That’s how we progress.

This is such a fascinating subject and I didn’t realize that I’d feel like there was still so much that could be said.  Is there anything with your relationship with time that you think you could improve?  Maybe it’s just the way you talk about it.  Or if you feel like you consistently waste time it’s probably a reflection of how you see yourself and the value you add to the world.  If you see yourself as someone with little value you’re more likely to spend your time on things of little value.  But when you really know that you were intrinsically born with so much value to add to the world and you realize that time is sacred, you can make amazing things happen.  You can submit to father time and share in his power.  

As women, we’re particularly conditioned to see the passage of time as a bad thing.  Especially if you can see evidence of time on your face.  Youth is the ideal.  Anything less than that is a disappointment.  But that’s ridiculous.  Time makes us better.  How might you be able to more fully enjoy the passage of time?  James Taylor says it’s the secret of life, so you don’t want to miss out on that.  We can’t control, horde or get on top of time.  Time is sacred and the only thing we can never get back.  But our lives can have more meaning when we start to feel ourselves function properly within the continuum of time and develop a correct relationship with time, otherwise known as discipline.  

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Christina Hackett, Pharm.D.

Healthspan Coach and founder of The Health Courage Collective

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