Let me tell you something about my life: Every moment I live is a moment I will never have again. Every moment is a chance to make forward progress with my wife, kids, job, community, or self. Every moment is something that I can choose to take advantage of or just let pass.
I am an athlete and part of my training program is running. Running became part of my life just 2 to 3 years ago and so I find new parallels between running and the human experience regularly. One pleasant morning in the middle of the summer I was waiting at a traffic light for my turn to cross one of those massive intersections. I was standing there watching the cars, thinking about the sizable hill I had just run up, thankful for the couple minutes of recovery time because the light takes a few minutes to turn. Now, I track my runs with MapMyRun on my smartphone so I had paused the workout while I waited the 2 minutes for the light to cycle to me. And, that is when it hit me.
I don’t know what new guilt feels like to you but when I realize I’m straight up guilty of something I get a real physical manifestation. That feeling of guilt started in my chest, it radiated out into my shoulders and hips an arms and legs. I was really hit by it. The pressure in my chest told me something was wrong.
I had done that very thing many times. Ran the hill, reached the light, paused the run. What I realized is that after the run I would get home and look at the stats from the workout and give myself a mental high-five for some great pace numbers, but those weren’t numbers I could achieve in a race or at an event or with a buddy. Those were stats I could achieve when I stopped the clock at the apex of the workout for a couple minutes to recover. I WAS CHEATING ME! That’s why it hit me so hard.
This realization changed my life. Now when I get to a “Don’t Walk” sign I apply myself. I do a strength training exercise or I keep running along the block or I stretch. Those moments are valuable and I want to make the most of them.
I see it everywhere in my life now, too:
- When I’m on the bus commuting to and from work I don’t just sit there gazing out the window or playing farmville or candy crush. I use those minutes for Expedia, or for my self development, or to write a letter, or to meditate.
- When I’m at work and I get blocked I don’t just sit idle waiting for direction or for someone else to clear the problem for me. I charge the problem down (run down the block) or I switch to another part of the project (strength training), or I switch to a different project all together (stretch).
- Now, whenever my life throws a stop sign in front of me I look for my options and I take the one that moves me forward.
Now, I know something about you… I know that this same thing happens to you almost every single day. Maybe you’re not a runner but just think about what you did today. When did you get blocked or stuck? Maybe it was a project at work. Maybe you had to wait for your boss. Maybe you had to wait for your spouse. Maybe you had to wait at the doctor or dentist office. Maybe you had to wait to get a license or permit of some kind.
I don’t know what you did today but did you just stop and wait? Did you make use of that time productively?
Are you using the moments you have available to you because you’re waiting for something else? I challenge you to look for the stop signs in your life and actively choose what you’re going to do about them.