I Can’t Trace Time

Photo by Agê Barros

Time is a complicated thing. We’ll often talk about how we’re going to spend our time, how we don’t have enough time, or how we arrived at an appointment half an hour early and have to ‘waste’ time beforehand.

In all three of these examples, we’re looking at time in a different way, and all three of these views could belong to any of us, all on the very same day.

Two years ago I wrote about how time is our only real currency, something I still believe entirely in the context of the post. More than just that though, time is something that is going to happen regardless. There are no surprises when it comes to time. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t spend time, waste time, or try to stretch time out.

Everything we experience in our lives passes through that little thing we call our mind, and the idea of time is little more than what we choose to focus our mind on in the present.

Our experience of a particular ‘time,’ whether positive or negative, relates entirely to what our mind was focused on, which is why we will return from a vacation saying that we had the best (read: most relaxing, adventurous, intimate) time, and why we’ll return from work one evening to declare we had a horrible (read: boring, unchallenging, dissatisfying) time.

We can’t always control what we should be focusing our mind on in the present, due to work or other obligations, but we can choose to focus our mind on positive and happy thoughts and ideas in our down time, such as when standing in line or waiting for the kettle to boil.

When we regard time as what we’re choosing to focus our mind on in the present, rather than something we can spend, wish for more of, or waste, the idea of time becomes a whole lot simpler. ∎

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.