Q. At the beginning of each year I think about the past year and make plans for the New Year. I intend to make better use of my time. Each year I plan to learn new things, change old habits and get involved in more worthwhile activities. Instead there’s never enough time or I’m too fearful to try something new or I’m busy just getting done what must be done. How can I change? How can I use my time better this year?
A. Many of us struggle with how we use time, often wishing for more time, often pressured by time. Human beings are different from any other creatures on this earth. We are aware of time. We are also blessed with both memory and imagination. We can remember the past and we can imagine our future. These enable us to live thoughtful and creative lives.
However, our memory and our imagination can create problems for us. We are influenced by our memories and by negative, imaginative thoughts of the future. Our memory reminds us of past fears, worries, guilt, hurts and discouragement. It warns us, “Don’t do that new thing.” It may say, for example, “Remember how foolish you felt when you tried something new in second grade and the class laughed at you.” And so we back away from change because of our memories.
Memories, conscious and unconscious, may cause us to be fearful in the future. Many of our fears, worries, and jealousies, are created by our negative imaginations. And our imagination is often inspired by our memories. Someone has said that worry about the future is interest paid on a debt that may never come due. Worry changes nothing and keeps us from growing.
How do we not worry since the world is complex and the future unpredictable? We can use our minds, our memories and our imaginations to remind us that God’s in charge and that his purposes are good. Relying on God we can then make prayerful conscious choices. We can remember the past but we don’t have to be bound by the past. With God’s help we can use our will and determination to set priorities and to move toward them.
There are only three ways to spend the present. We can waste it, spend it or invest it. Time wasters include worry, fear, sleeping more than we need to and busyness that accomplishes little. We also waste time on petty anger, procrastination, indecision, complaints and pity. These confuse us and keep us from accomplishing our dreams.
Spending time might be described as merely existing. Our life has no purpose or direction. We simply do what has to be done, no more. We sleep, work, eat and little more. Our life is dull and routine. Most of us have many “chores” and “work” that require our time; these are necessary routine things we must do. We can do them with a song in our heart and a prayer on our lips – and then this time brings glory to God.
We invest our time when we know that our life has purpose and meaning beyond our own self-interest. We invest our time when we do something which touches the lives of those around us, when we offer a smile, a helping hand or a kind word. We invest our time when we help a worthy cause. We invest our time when we pray and when we worship God.
To make changes this year learn to live in the present. Learn to make conscious choices about your priorities in life and then take small steps each day to pursue your God given dreams. The more time you spend in His Presence the easier it will be to live in the present and to be intentional. Someone has said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.”
“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm