Dear reader, this is Jaden. Jaden, this is my dear reader.
I know someone. It is a woman. She happens to be a wife and mother. I know her husband and children as well because they live near my house. We are close friends and I have great admiration for them. I will mostly talk about her in this post. Let’s call her Jaden.
Jaden is a beautiful, hard-working, honest and sympathetic person. She helps stray animals on the street, gives things to the poor, buys from poor people selling things from door to door (even if it is something she doesn’t need or like) just to help them out and does many other similar things. Everybody likes her a lot. Nowadays she has a reasonable good life, has a descent job and things seem to be doing okay for her. But it was not always so.
She lost her mother and father very early in life, and lived with some relatives for years until she met her husband. They worked hard, on low-paying, menial jobs, but although being poor, their determination did not leave them and both managed to get a degree. Now they are paying the debts acquired in order to attend the university. I is a bit hard, but they are being able to pay each month’s bills faithfully.
Jaden wants to learn English, and has told me she also needs to learn more about computers in general, and improve her skills on some computer programs she uses at work on a daily basis and other programs that she feels would also be very beneficial to become skilled at. She needs to learn these things, and wants to!
And I, admiring and having great respect for her, want to see her succeed in her endeavours. She desires it! She deserves it! And this is the part that troubles me and even gets me angry at times.
Let’s talk about English, but my reasoning can be applied to any of the things she intends to become good at.
On Time to Learn English
Her mother tongue is Brazilian Portuguese. Working as an administrator in an English school where people talk in English all day long. Being fluent in it would certainly make her feel more confident, and consequently happier and more valuable in her current job and certainly in many of the jobs she may pursue now or in the future. I should add that the school gives the course for free for the employees. They don’t even need to pay for the books and material used in the course (although the school does pay them to the franchiser).
This friend of mine, working eight hours a day, and sleeping another eight, has left eight hours for her own. Now hold on a second. I will not make that silly calculation everybody else seems to do, where they say you still have eight hours left to do whatever you want with them. That is a lie! Untrue! Downright dumb!
You know, people use time to take a shower, brush their teeth, poop 💩, pee, commute (either by bus, car, or other means), have the meals, are interrupted by the telephone, by friends, by relatives, etc. or sometimes we are simply feeling sick (a headache or something like that).
Still, let’s say there are about four hours left for Jaden each day (or you or me, for that matter). She still won’t make progress in her English studies. She is stuck for years now.
I am sorry to say this about this good friend of mine, but I think some of her life values are turned upside down, and that is causing her to fail in her goal to become proficient in English.
Life Values, Priorities
It turns out that Jaden, being a modern woman (those who have a profession, have or are pursuing a degree, run a business, etc.) is in the middle of an internal war.
Being a woman, a wife and a mother causes her to lose focus on those goals that would greatly improve her life. When she gets home from work, she prepares some snacks for the children and takes care of the pets. Then she spends hours getting the house tidy and clean, does the laundry, prepares dinner, feeds her family, does the dishes and by that time the day is over. Forever gone!
You see, it is easier to make the family understand when you have appointments in other places outside home. When she attended the university, she had to spend 3.5 hours there every day. She found time to do it. Her husband and children managed to take care of themselves. Nobody died. She studied hard, got her degree and a better job because of all that.
Why then, if she knows she should come home spend part of that “free” time studying English, she can’t seem to get to it? Looking from the outside seems simple, right? You get home, rest for a few minutes, eat something, set the countdown timer on your desktop program or smartphone app, and simply do it! But that simply doesn’t happen, except on a few, random days.
On the weekends and holidays the story is similar. Jaden is tired, wakes up in the middle of the morning or near lunch time, does some chores, prepares the meal, does some more chores, etc. Then she may either go back to bed and take a nap, or watch a video, etc. Note that I am not implying one shouldn’t spend some time tidying the place, resting or having fun. Those are part of life as well and should not be neglected. Still, can you see what is actually being neglected? Yep! Her own goals god damn it!.
A thousand things are keeping her from doing what is important, but she ends up focusing on what is urgent.
Urgent vs Important Things in Life
I would argue that most of the urgent things are not important, and most of the important things are not urgent. Alas, we are afraid of urgent things and pay little or no attention to the really important ones. I’ll give some examples.
Doing exercises and eating healthy food is important, but you won’t die now if you don’t do those things now, so, they are not urgent. You can’t put them off until some day…
Reading (and practicing at least some of the lessons) on the book “The Richest Man in Babylon” would give you some great insights about financial education, and would help you shape a better and safer future for yourself (and your family), but nah… You are not in the mood to read such things today, and anyway, it is December now… Next year you will finally read the book, right?
Learning to type properly (with your ten fingers) would speed up all your tasks on the computer, either at work, playing games, or any thing else you do that has to do with the computer, but, oh, it is so boring. Moreover, you can’t name a single one of your friends that know how to type properly. So, yeah, fuck typing properly!. If it were that important more people would be able to do it. When you have more free time… Then you will get to it. But not now…
I could go on and one with examples like these.
Back to Jaden, it is the same thing with her English. It is important for her for a wealth of different reasons, but it is not urgent. She won’t lose her job today, or die if she doesn’t know English. Look! The house is a mess! She has to do something about it right now. What if someone visits her? It would be very embarrassing if they found the house in such an untidy situation! That would be unbearable! This is very urgent. The English books will not run away. She can study some other day.
Again, I grant that sometimes just taking a nap is both urgent and important. Sometimes going to the movies, playing games, etc. are indeed important. Life should be balanced with many different types of tasks and goals, and having fun and resting are certainly important and necessary. Even the Greek a long time ago had a saying:
Moderation in all things.
They were right, of course.
But as we can see from the story of my friend, after she graduated, her life scale has almost all the weight on the urgent things, and she is neglecting some of the important ones.
Now, what if she got home and refused to do the laundry and focused instead on her personal goals for two hours every day? Say her husband and children said, “we have no more clean forks to eat some cake.” Well, eating is important, and having clean forks to eat a bit of cake would become urgent. Now, it should be their problem as well, not only hers. Even if they are in the same situation as Jaden, and are full of both urgent and important things to do, the burden should be divided, and not unloaded entirely upon Jaden’s back.
Use The Time Wisely
Jaden, my friend, if you ever read this (and you will know I’m talking about you you), I beg of you, pay attention to my words, for I have done some of these mistakes myself in the past, and have studied a great deal about this subject of goals, time management and wisdom about life choices. Although my reasoning my not be perfect, I am sure it contains some useful insights.
First of all, we should all be aware of this: one cannot save time. The passing of time is a constant. It goes by with the determination of an avalanche going down hill. If we could save time, we’d say, “I’ll make today twenty hours so I can have four extra hours tomorrow that is my sons/mother/friend birthday and therefore we can spend more time enjoying this happy moment.”
Times passes with the same speed every second and every hour, be you sleeping, studying, having fun or working. But although you cannot save time, you can spend it more or less wisely.
My advise is this: get some goals for yourself, whatever they may be, and make sure a part of your day is spent working on the achievement of those goals. Every minute and every hour that goes by is gone for good, never to be seen again.
Never forget that every day that you live means it is one less day left to live. Whatever you have to do, do it now. Start it now and work on it everyday. Don’t you sleep every day? Don’t you eat everyday? Don’t you take a shower everyday? Okay, you may not work everyday but most people, although they may work “just” five or six days a week, it is for others, to realise someone else’s dream in exchange for some money. Life may be defined in many ways. One of the ways I define it is “life is the passing of time”, so, we could say that when you are working for others, eight hours a day, you are giving them a part of your life each hour you spend working for them, and they “give” you money (that you produced) in return for the time you put in for them.
My ultimate question then is: why wouldn’t any one person do something for themselves during part of their free time? They could do whatever they wanted with it without giving account of it to anyone. Why not to take advantage of it to produce a better future for ourselves? Why spend it only with menial, urgent and unimportant tasks?
I think we all have a bit of Jaden in ourselves to a greater or lesser degree (myself included). It is within our grasp to crush the spirit of procrastination and seize the good opportunities we have each and every single day of our lives.