Everyone has something - or some things - they're afraid of. Typically, these fears are unique to the individual. However, every single one of us shares a common fear: the fear of time.
And no, I'm not talking about clock phobia or the fear of your blaring alarm at 6 am. Rather, I'm talking about the fear of depleting time. That is, the fear of death; the fear of our time running out.
In fact, I'm here to argue that literally every anxiety or stress you feel stems from a fear of lost time. This universal fear is running rampant throughout our society, affecting people in much deeper ways than they realize.
Don't believe me? Well, I challenge you to read on. If you do, you'll not only realize that each of your fears are intertwined, but you'll know how to deal with the universal root cause, thus eliminated your negative emotions.
In this article, we're going to discuss:
Fear of death? Sounds like fun! Let's begin...
The first thing we need to do is to think of time as a resource.
According to Webster's, a "resource" is a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.
Time would fall under this definition, seeing as a person can draw on their time to function effectively. Further, time has value. If you're an employee, for example, you're literally trading your time for money. And if you read my last article on appreciating assets, you know that anything that has a store of value is considered an asset.
Therefore, given Webster's definition, "time" falls safely within the bounds of a resource.
But this definition itself shows us the problem with how we value our resources. The first two resources listed by Webster's are money or materials. Fitting. But that's the way we've been conditioned to think: Money is our most valuable resource.
But it's not.
Money is renewable. Materials are renewable. Time, however, is not.
Time is constantly depleting. You never get back the time you spend. You'll always be able to make more money, but you'll never be able to make more time (barring a Matrix-like future, but let's keep this simple).
Therefore, time is our most valuable resource. Yes, you read it right. Our most intangible and ephemeral asset, time, is also our most important.
In fact, time should be priceless. Which is sad, considering how easy it is to waste the time we have.
Our fear of time comes from the fact that time is finite. If we had a chance to make more time, we'd be much less afraid of losing the time we have.
But we can't, making the passage of time a very anxious event for us humans.
Imagine grains of sand slowly pouring down the bottle neck of an hourglass. Now, imagine that hour glass represents your life. Scary, huh?
This is the perfect metaphor for our fear of time. We watch our personal hourglass - either consciously or unconsciously - deplete itself and by god (purposefully lower-case), we're scared.
Therefore, our fear of time is really a fear of lost time. It's a fear that we're not maximizing the time we have, which is a direct result of the fact that time is nonrenewable. Time is fundamental, like water or air. If you knew that you only had 20 years of air left to breathe I'm sure you'd spend your breaths wisely. Why is it that we don't treat our time in the same manner?
Death is the end-date. In finance, we call it the terminal value or "term."
Death represents the end of time as we know it. So, if we're afraid of losing time, our ultimate fear comes when that last grain of sand falls through our personal hourglass.
But mainly, we fear death because it represents life's game clock (or a shot clock, if basketball is international enough now). Only unlike a game clock, the amount of time we have is completely unknown to us.
Forgive my sports references, but our fear of death reminds me of Lebron James, basketball extraordinaire. Lebron James is arguably the best basketball player of all time. But it's just an argument. If he wants to surpass Michael Jordan he needs to add a few more championships to his resume.
But Lebron is getting older, a human curse. His time of dominance is slowly coming to an end, and he has only a few years to cement his legacy. And quite frankly you can tell that Lebron feels the pressure. There's a sense of urgency in the way he plays and in the way he speaks.
Now, imagine for a second that the human body never broke down. Imagine that athletes like Lebron had an infinite amount of time to build a Hall of Fame resume. Don't you think his urgency would be less? Might he be more relaxed? Wouldn't he approach his career completely different? I'm sure of it.
Ok, let's take this odd example to segue back into our topic: fear of time that manifests itself in a fear of death.
The sense of urgency that Lebron feels is the same sense of urgency we feel every day. Except instead of an aging career, our urgency comes from the ultimate end date: death.
Think about it. Why are you so adamant about getting that promotion now rather than later? Why do you want to start that company today rather than tomorrow? Probably because you know you only have so much time before you'll never be able to achieve the success you covet.
Now let's assume that you had infinite time. Imagine that death never occurred. Would you feel the same pressures to get that promotion or start that company? Maybe, but I think not. Why? Because if there was no death you could always do it tomorrow. There'd be no penalty for being passive. No penalty for misallocating your time.
But you can't do it tomorrow. You have to do it today or risk missing out on the life you want to live. You see, death represents the end of our career, and just like Lebron, we're hell bent on building our resume before we go.
Our fear of death is actually a major driver of our success. If we can shift our paradigm to embrace death, there's a good chance we'll achieve more than if we ran from it.
This is because our life's term date gives us a sense of urgency. It gives us motivation because we know our time is finite and yet we don't know when our time's up. It helps us take risks because we don't have time to take the safe route to the top. It entices us to act spontaneously today, rather than waiting for a tomorrow that isn't promised.
Ultimately, like Lebron, it lights a fire and encourages us to build our resume while we still can. And that resume, of course, can be filled anything from a definable goal to a feeling you want, from a fun trip to a serious career aspiration.
For those who don't know, a shot clock in basketball counts down each possession, forcing the offense to attack the basket and make something happen. There used to be no shot clock in basketball. Back in those days, the game was slow and quite frankly boring to watch.
But then the shot clock was added and the ferocity and intensity increased 10 fold, if not more.
I think of life in the same way.
If there was no clock on life, we'd play the game of life much differently. In fact, my assumption is that it would be as boring as a clock-less basketball game. There'd be no reason to take action. No reason to make the moment count. Because you could always do it tomorrow.
But if you're like me, you don't want to do things tomorrow. You want them done today. Which means that death is your friend and certainly not your enemy.