Our Most Valuable Possession – it’s not what you think

When I was 21 I was given an opportunity, by a generous friend, to go overseas. I was afraid – not of travelling though. I had just landed a wonderful new job and was afraid I might not find another like it. My father convinced me to grab the opportunity and soon the last day at work arrived.

On that last Friday, we all gathered in the company bar as usual. What wasn’t usual was being approached by the CEO, who had heard I had resigned. I didn’t think he even knew my name. I was profoundly impacted by what he had to say.

I felt proud and liberated

He spoke to everyone, first asking what the most precious thing on earth was. The answers varied from gold to religion, love, and children. He said the answer was TIME. All the other things you could top up or rediscover, but time never gave second chances. He stood up there, acknowledging little me who’d only been at the company for 7 months, congratulating me on choosing to use my time wisely. I felt proud and liberated and am still enormously grateful for that moment.

The Great Halt of 2020 has brought, to many of us, a new awareness and appreciation for time – after all, it stole a large chunk of it.  Or did it?

I would like to think that Covid in fact gifted us with very precious time. I believe that the pause button that stopped life as we knew it, also meant a pause or respite for our planet – time for us to stop and notice the things we’d stopped noticing due to our pace of life – it meant a time to recover. I am fully aware that this pause button has immense negative implications for billions of people and the global economy. I am not by any means wishing to underplay the damage, but I cannot help but be the glass-half-full person that I am. There is so much to be negative about, I make it my business to look for the upside of things.

Then there’s thinking time

I believe that working from home, or even unemployed and at home, gifted you time of a different sort. At the very least it would have given you a few moments that you will remember and treasure forever. Whether it was simple connection with loved ones or even strangers, caught up in your space during lockdown. Whether it was growing your first seeds and watching them grow, time became a lot more precious.  Then there’s thinking time. I’ve lost count of the number of executives who have told me that their AHA moment was realising that they had the freedom, within this restriction, to carve out space to think. Who would have thought? If you’ve not yet carved out your space to think or just be still, it’s not too late.

Consider to what extent we disregarded time in the past – taking for granted that there would always be more time to say ‘I love you’, or ‘Sorry’, to start a new career or end one; write a book; plant a garden; help someone … and yes, maybe there will still be that time but it cannot be taken for granted.

Time spent fidgeting in queues

Then there’s the time we’ve only now learned to appreciate – or have we? That time we spent fidgeting in queues at the airport, on long haul flights (if you’re like me you would have done much of your best thinking in flight); walking from one boardroom to another; finding parking? That was thinking time – and cool off time. There’s a reason why every athletic coach insists that players cool down as much as they warm up. Muscles need time to recover. They need time to come down from their energetic high, in order to have the strength for the next session.

Now we’re working from home and all we do is ‘engage’. We switch from one meeting to the next, or attend three at the same time. Our brains aren’t enjoying the same downtime that we had before. We aren’t affording ourselves the luxury of the time we took to prepare psychologically, mentally and physically for the day at the office. The same for the walk to our cars at the end of a day – reflecting, chit-chatting with a colleague, and really winding down before we got home.

My invitation to all my clients is to find little ways each day to create thinking space. Make time to recalibrate, unwind and cool down. You owe yourself this kindness.

Contact me if you want help carving out time for yourself and the things that matter.   paula@chialife.co.za

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