A River Worth Riding: Lesson Six
What you need to know about time if you want to accomplish your goals
The Power of Vacuum

A lad with two goals once roamed the river. His mother told him to above all, be nice. And his father told him to above all, be worthwhile. His goal was to be both of those things.

He managed the first goal very well. He was nice to his parents, nice to his boss, nice to his wife, and nice to his friends. He was even nice to every rat on the river. He was the first person that people called upon for favors. He returned every phone call. He picked up everyone’s mess. Everyone counted upon him to do what was nice because he always did. “Ask the lad,” people would say. “The lad is a very nice guy.”

But the lad felt his second goal kept somehow eluding him, and he never had time to figure out why. One day he met a wise woman who laughed out loud at his dilemma. “You foolish lad. You want to be nice, and you want to be worthwhile, but you have not made time for both.”

“My days are so full as it is. I have no time left over.”

“Whose fault is that?” the old woman cackled. “You’re so busy being nice, you don’t even know what’s worthwhile.”

“There’s a difference?”

“You would ask such a question. Do you think that we have so many different words because they all have the same meaning?”

“I hadn’t considered. Maybe not, but what then is the difference?”

“That depends on how you define worthwhile, and only you can answer that question. I do know one thing for certain, if you haven’t felt it, you haven’t found it, so you had better budget time for looking. Your life can be filled with whatever you decide, but if you don’t fill your life with what you want, you’re gonna keep getting whatever you get.”

The power of vacuum states that nothing on the river stays empty for long, so you’d better fill your life with what you want, before it fills up with everything else.

Many people who ride the river seem busy all the time. But those same busy people often complain that their lives don’t feel worthwhile. Why? Because they haven’t managed to fill their days with what makes a life worthwhile.

Have you ever noticed that a typical “To Do” list is made up of items like: pick up kids, meet with client, make dinner, do laundry, call doctor, stop at store, check e-mail, drop by the bank and vacuum the living room? Take a look at your own “To Do” list, and ask yourself: Which item on your list can actually improve the quality of your life? Which item is imperative to your success as a human being? Which item will bring you closer to your dreams? Which item will fill your life with joy?

If your “To Do” list is full of items that actually bring you joy, then you are rare. Most of my students fill their lives with nothing but a bunch of tasks unessential to their joy. And if you are like my students, then it’s no wonder that you work all day and still don’t feel worthwhile.

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Well, consider what that adage says about how you experience life. It says that nothing on the river is ever empty, not even time. It says that your schedule will always be full, and you will always have more stuff to do. So if you want to build a worthwhile life, you need to carve out the time to build that life.

So how do you build a worthwhile life?

Building a worthwhile life is a lot like loading a boat.

“What?!” you say.

The amount of stuff that you can load onto a boat is determined by the size of that boat. In the same way, the amount of activity that you can cram into a day is determined by the size of that day, and time has allocated exactly twenty-four hours to each day. So how you decide to fill those hours becomes up to you.

What would happen if you started by filling your day with sand? Well presumably, you would have a hard time finding room for anything else.

In case you’re wondering, the sand in this analogy represents any task not essential to a worthwhile life. I mean, if you go loading your boat with other people’s stuff before you’ve finished loading your own stuff, you will inevitably run out of room.

People will always have more stuff to load onto you. And if you begin loading your days with items not essential to your happiness, you may never find room for what is essential to your happiness. Believe me, you can always find room for some nonessentials after your essentials are aboard; but if you want to ensure that you have room for what you need, you had better load your needs first. Unless you do, other people’s stuff will keep getting in your way; little trifling nothings will keep stealing away your energy, and you’ll spend all your time juggling other people’s lives. If you’re not careful, the little grains of “things to do” will suck you down like quicksand.

You can always squeeze in time to do the dishes and help your friends. And yes, both of those things are important to smooth sailing. But you need to occasionally to ask yourself whose life you’re actually living? Yours, or someone else’s? Unless you budget time for what’s important to you, you will never get around to doing what’s important to you, and your life will be filled with nothing but other people’s sand.

How do you budget time for what’s important to you? That process is examined and explained fully in our companion book A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life. Click here for ordering information.

Here’s the bottom line on vacuum. Sand will always be filling up your life, so get the essentials in early. Ultimately, how you spend your time is up to you. If you want time for a worthwhile life, start budgeting time for what’s worthwhile in life.

 A River Worth Riding: Fourteen Rules for Navigating Life
Copyright: Lynn Marie Sager 2005

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