Technically the 24- hour-day formula is pretty non-negotiable, but if you make certain modifications to your lifestyle, in the words of Seneca, the Roman Stoic Philosopher, “Life is long if you know how to use it”. Here is a 4-point formula that might help “slow the hands of time”, at least long enough for you to savor each precious drop of your life
- Live in the Present
- Avoid getting distracted by daily trivia
- Make time for thoughtful reflection; and
- Create a Life Plan.
Seneca, the Roman Stoic Philosopher, in his essay “On the Shortness of Life” mused about how idiotic it is to spend one’s days organizing and planning for the future. Instead, focus only on making each moment the best it can be, so as to really interact with your life and not just being a passive bystander. Seneca also wrote “putting things off is the biggest waste of life, for it snatches away each day as it comes and denies us the present…” Put time aside each day to do something you love to do or have wanted to do. Spending your time worried about whether you will die prematurely or feeling regretful about not doing all you should have done in the past is unnecessarily harsh self-punishment, as is fearing that the time you have left on earth will fly by. The future is uncertain for all of us, which is why Seneca urges us to live “immediately”.
We are all guilty of engaging in endless daily “to-do” lists. We run around robotically completing the mundane tasks of living and. Granted, there are a number of routines we must engage in for survival (e.g. grocery shopping, etc.). However such activities should not become the reason for our existence. We need meaning. Seneca wrote, “ living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man, and those who run around preoccupied find life to be very short”.
Everyone needs periods of reflection so that you can cognitively “register” each day’s experience and that you are spending your time in line with your intention.
Finally, try keeping a notebook in which you write out (and continue to modify as needed) your “Life Plan”. Often the goals we set for ourselves end up looking more like a disjointed collage than the interlocking parts of puzzle, which when completed makes total sense. When I was a psychology professor one of the exercises I would give my students was called a “Lifeline”. You draw a horizontal line that represents your life, putting an X where you are now. To the left of the line you put an X to stand for each major experience that occurred up to the present (E.g.; got a new sibling, started dance lessons, first date, marriage etc.), then to the right, continue to put X’s to represent your future goals. Your goals should be aligned with your passions, values, and talent, no matter what your present age. Of course you don’t have to follow that particular template, or even the one in the photo above this article. In fact, I encourage you to customize your own template, according to the areas in your life you want to modify in the short, mid, and long range. The point is, it is never to late to give your life new meaning and live each day to the fullest.
In ancient times people turned to philosophers to serve as examples of how to live, and to their words to provide a guideline on the specifics of living a quality life. They covered areas of friendship, emotions, physical health, finances, love, and spirituality. Examine your life as it is now, and how you would like it to be in these fundamental areas, and then set out to close the gap. This will bring a greater awareness to each day; a necessary element for using your life well and experiencing a “long life”.
Copyright 2016 Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D.. I am a columnist for THE ITALIAN TRIBUNE, Host & Producer of “The Italian Art of Living Well”, a radio show broadcast every Monday morning @ 7AM EST (wnhu.net) and Author of “Living la Dolce Vita Bring the Passion, Laughter, and Serenity of Italy into Your Daily Life”, and “Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy”. Wherever books are sold.