From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Time to think

Sometimes we wish our lives away. We may not do this consciously but from time to time, almost all of us wish for the end of the day, for the weekend to arrive, for a child’s stage to be finished, for a semester to be over, or we just wish to be done with a certain event. Then while we wish for the future to hurry up and arrive, we also lament how quickly time flies. Having trouble with time management? Perhaps the way we think has something to do with it. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.

·        There is anxiety between now and the future. The future can be scary. When we think about future events, we are considering the “unknown”. This opens up a world of possibilities. While some of us think about the good possibilities, others consider all the possible disasters.  This is where the optimists and pessimists go their separate ways. One way to manage our thoughts is to focus on what we want to have happen. Our minds are very powerful navigation systems which can lead us either toward our goals or off course “on a wild goose chase”.

·        Reflecting on the past can be joyful or depressing. Thinking about the past, we can recall fond memories of pleasant experiences, or we can open up  the floodgates to a barrage of self-criticism.  Looking back, we can compliment ourselves on things we have done right, or we can use this opportunity to harp on our mistakes. A variation on this theme is the tendency to use the past as a yardstick for perfection (for example,” the holidays used to be perfect”) which makes it difficult if not impossible for all future holidays, events or performances to measure up.

·        Both the past and the future are distractions from the here and now. When we focus too much on the past, it’s like trying to drive forward while looking in the rear view mirror. Similarly, when we’re preoccupied with the future, it’s easy to lose sight of the present moment, making it easier to stumble and fall. Even when we are physically present, it is easy to be mentally absent and miss out on important events.

·        Why is it so uncomfortable to focus on the here and now? Although most of us deny it, many Americans have trouble relaxing. We are impatient, driven, competitive, and seldom have enough hours in the day. When we’re told to relax (even by our loved ones), it’s easy to become suspicious or defensive, saying things like “I am relaxed”. When we ourselves decide to relax, we may unconsciously coach ourselves to “hurry up and relax” lest we take too much time and fall behind schedule.

·        For many reasons, it is good to focus on what’s happening now. From time to time, I have been known to trip and fall, over my own feet, going down stairs, going up stairs or just walking across a room. Usually this occurs when my body is in motion and my mind is somewhere else. Some folks may put down their keys, only to spend hours later searching to find them again. Others may seem to be constantly on the move, too busy to stop and smell the roses. Later on, these same folks often regret having lost valuable opportunities to talk, listen, play, or otherwise enjoy the gifts we give and receive from other people.

Perhaps the real trick to time management lies in our ability to think carefully. Our abilities to look forward and backward in time are mental tools which we can use judiciously.  Our sensory functions allow us to fully experience what’s happening now. Rather than wish our lives away, perhaps we should take enough time to enjoy the people we love and do things that make us feel good, and be more aware of when our thoughts about the future or the past are running or ruining our lives.

©Copyright, 2011, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

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