“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
– Lao Tzu
Success is never easy, the common cliché is that is requires hard work and sacrifice; however, generally, people focus too much on what they are willing to do to be successful. I think of the Eric Thomas video that I used to watch back in my serious lifting days. For those of you who can’t watch, the first and most memorable point of the video is that you have to want to be successful as bad as you want to breathe in order to make it. While this probably isn’t too serious hyperbole, I propose that we should choose a different launching point to “success.”
A better place to start is to think about what you are willing to give up in order to be successful. In Eric Thomas’ defense, he does mention giving up time-wasters and addictions in order to achieve success. This makes me think about one of my long-time hobbies and addictions, video games. For many years, I had no idea what I wanted, but I couldn’t stop playing. This changed when I developed a new goal or purpose, getting as strong as possible in the sport of powerlifting. I knew video game playing was holding me back from my goal, so I gave it up for a year in which I dedicated myself to getting physically stronger. I don’t want to exaggerate my willpower, as it was quite easy for me at the time, but being video gamer was a part of my identity. Gaming was the only activity in my life, up to that point, on which I had diligently worked to improve. I enjoyed the online competition; I enjoyed being part of a community; and I enjoyed talking with my friends in other parts of the world. However, once I gained a productive purpose, the hobby that had meant so much to me felt trivial.
With the extra time and energy I gained from not playing video games, I spent more time watching lifting videos, taking more time to relax and recover, and working on my mobility to prevent injury. Doing those things was easy because of the amount of time and energy I had. I did relapse on playing video games as my lifting goals diminished and a new void was created in my life
Now that I have a full-time job, giving things up is even more important to make sure I have all the time and energy I can muster to pour into my life’s task. I have shaken video games for the most part and play less than 3 hours a week now days. However, I have filled some of this free time with non-productive activities such as reading Reddit or watching videos. I have installed LeechBlock on my Internet browser to try to limit these activities. Over 80% of the time I exceed my time limit and get blocked by the app, I instantly close the page I was on because whatever I was reading or watching wasn’t really that interesting or relevant. I was just doing it to waste time or distract myself from my current situation. The truth is: most of us have time for the most important things, we just haven’t been serious about reflecting on what we actually want or on where all of our time is actually going.
I am certainly not suggesting you eliminate all “non-productive activity.” I am not as extreme as Eric Thomas suggesting that you give up all of your vices or time wasters; having time wasters is important for mental stability and happiness. I do think that this time should be monitored to determine if you are spending too much time doing non-productive activities. Spending 10–20 minutes surfing the Internet is like alright after you have put in 1–3 hours of hard work. Spending an hour watching TV is perfectly fine after a long productive day. Just be more mindful and use a timer to make sure it doesn’t go on longer than you truly desire. At this point it is important that I differentiate between time wasting activities, which you really want to put a cap on, and “goal-free” activities. Paradoxically, so called “goal-free” activities can help you accomplish your goals, albeit indirectly. The time-tested activity, a long, slow walk, is likely the best thing you can do during any free time to improve the quality of your future work and drum up new ideas.
Deciding what is really important to you and deciding how important each one of your goals are at a given time is one of the most empowering things in life because it gives you permission to remove things from your life. The reduction of energy draining distractions and less immediate goals can free up time to enable you to naturally orient yourself towards your most important goals. So ask yourself what are you willing to give up? For most people, the easiest and most impactful things are probably social media, television and reading meaningless articles on the Internet. Having time to do what you love is one of the most liberating feelings in the world.