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Finite but Flexible

Twenty-four hours in a day doesn’t seem to be enough sometimes, and yet that’s all any of us has to work with.

Divvied up between sleeping, eating, spending time with loved ones, and the requisite survival-level efforts (usually a job, these days, rather than hunting and gathering), there’s generally not a lot of time left over for you. For your cares and passions.

This is the excuse I hear more frequently than any other from folks who are frustrated over not being able to pursue the things they’re passionate about. Not enough time. Too much work. Family or friends are too demanding. It’s essentially all the same story: There’s not enough time, so I’m putting off my passions until there is.

What sucks is that they’re right. There isn’t enough time; not if you have big dreams, big wants, and have an attitude that keeps you curious and inventive. There will never be enough time available to enjoy and indulge in every little thing that catches your eye. This would be true even if we were all immortal, because as the years flew by we would continue to discover new things, invent new kinds of art and music and sports, and uncover new challenges.

There will always be more we want to do than there is time in which to do it. And as soon as we accept this uncomfortable truth, our plans can become less about making excuses and more about making the best use of the time we do have.

A common piece of advice for those who crave more time in which to build their ideal life is to eliminate passive activities — like sitting in front of the television — from your schedule. I say if watching TV what you love, keep it on the agenda; just don’t complain that your side business hasn’t done as well as you’d hoped, or that your painting skills aren’t improving, if you’re spending your downtime watching hour-long cop dramas instead of refining your product or learning something new.

What you do with your spare time defines your priorities, how you’ll develop as a person, and what your life will look like in the future.

The amount of time we all have access to is finite, but flexible. It’s limited in scope, certainly, but infinite in possibility. Keep that in mind next time you think something — anything — might be out of reach.