Living longer but enjoying it less.

Author:Davidson, Jeff

Are your days filled with activities or accomplishments? To better understand how your life is consumed requires looking at what fills your days and why. You must determine and act upon what is important to you.

As a species we're living longer. The life span of the average cave man was 19 years. The life span in Europe in 1395 was 38 years. The life span in America in 1895 was 49. Today it is 72 for American men, 77 for American women, and quickly rising for both sexes.

Through history, people have not lived long lives. Pocahontas, one of the most renowned females of her time, lived to the ripe old age of 21. Edgar Allan Poe made it to 40. In 1932, when Franklin Roosevelt pushed through the Social Security Act, retirement age was pegged at 65 because Roosevelt and his administration knew that the average person lived to be 61.

In recent years, our expectations about life span have changed dramatically (see Figure 1). By the year 2000, life expectancy for men in America will be at least age 73 and for women age 79. The typical American female, currently age 40, can expect another 45 years of life, and her male counterpart another 40.3 years. (See Figure 2.)

Yet what's the use of living to a ripe old age if each day races by so fast and your to-do list grows so large that you can't enjoy your life?

Why do things seem to be speeding up, despite the introduction of new technology that is supposedly designed to make our lives simpler? Actually, the faster we are able to gain new information or travel, the greater our expectations regarding what can and needs to be accomplished in our lives. So even though a day is still 24 hours it seems to shrink in the face of more to do or higher expectations about what we need to get done.

Some folks turn to time management, which is no longer the answer - it's too antiquated for the rapidly-changing world. It worked well in a finite scenario but doesn't address the reality of most people's professional and private lives.

What fills your days?

To better understand how the time in your life is consumed requires looking at what fills your days and why. My sister Nancy is a behavioral psychologist who works with clients in therapy to determine, among other things, how they spend their days. She says, "It's a significant clue to whatever type of dysfunction they may be experiencing." Tell me how you spend your time, and I'll tell you what your troubles are.

A wheel stuck in the mud, spinning fast, certainly represents rapid motion. Yet the car is not moving. Are your days filled with activity but not the experiences and accomplishments you'd like to enjoy? When you examine the broad canvas of your life, interesting surprises often surface. What you say is important to you isn't on your schedule. What you say you dislike is where you expend your energies.

Busy or not, everyone has 168 hours a week. I checked. One way or another, everyone fills them. Consider...

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