Whenever I am in Italy, I can’t help but notice how the days seem long and full; and how time seems to dawdle, instead of racing by. Technically the 24- hour-day formula is a non-negotiable, but I have discovered, that if we make a few subtle modifications to our lifestyle, “Life is long if you know how to use it”. These words are from the writings of Seneca, the Roman Stoic Philosopher.
LIVE IMMEDIATELY. Seneca, in his essay “On the Shortness of Life” mused about how foolish it is to spend one’s days organizing and planning for the future. The focus should be on interacting consciously with your life now,and not letting yourself become a passive bystander. Seneca also wrote that “putting things off is the biggest waste of life, for it snatches away each day as it comes and denies us the present…” Instead take time each day to do something you love to do or have been wanting to do. Spending your time worrying about the future or feeling regretful about the past is an unnecessarily harsh self-punishment.
REFLECT ON MEANING. We should take time to pause and reflect periodically, in order to mindfully “register” each day’s experience and ensure that we are spending our time on what is most important to us. How often do we fall into the trap of endless daily “to-do” lists, running around robotically completing the mundane tasks of living? Granted, there are routines we must follow for survival (e.g., grocery shopping, etc.). However, such activities should not become the reason for our existence. We need meaning. Seneca believed that “living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man, and those who run around preoccupied find life to be very short”.
MAKE A LIFE PLAN SO YOU CAN LIVE ON PURPOSE. Try keeping a journal 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”. It went something like this: You draw a horizontal timeline that represents your life, putting an X at the date where you are now. To the left of the X mark each major experience/event, and the approximate year that it occurred up to the present (X) (E.g.; got a new sibling, unforgettable grade school teacher, 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 template, but you get the idea. The concept is to think about the important aspects of your life– short, mid, and long range. That will better guide each day and help you to live more fully. It is never too late to enrich and savor each precious moment of your life.
In ancient times people looked to the life and words of philosophers to serve as examples on how to live well. Their writings can still provide a guideline for living a quality life, in 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; 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 the satisfaction of a “long life”.
BONUS: Want to know what a singer (and everyone else) can learn from “Ol’ Blue Eyes”? Check out my article for l’Idea Magazine HERE
Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D. is a columnist for L’Idea Magazine, and Author of “Living la Dolce Vita”, which sold 22,000 copies and published in several languages.