Was talking to a friend the other night and she came up with one of
those semi-profound things that sticks in your head and gets more and
more interesting the more you think about it. She said: “Without limits in life, you have nothing”.
was she saying that living without limits is not such a good idea
(since limits define what is possible)? Or was she saying that living
without limits is good (since once you realize you have nothing, you
have everything)? This was one of those after-dinner conversations with
André that become surreal after a while.
For example, as I get older I notice that if I put limits on how
much I sleep, I have more time to live and do other things. I now
enjoy, for the first time in my life, getting up at 2 am and reading
for a few hours before going back to bed. This is a new practice for
me, and it doesn’t seem to leave me any the worse for sleeping 5 hours
instead of my usual 7 or 8.
Now what if I limit the time I am wasting, say reduce it from 10
hours a week to 3 hours—that potentially leaves me with 7 extra hours
of time for other things. If I could limit the amount of time I spend
with people I don’t like, then there would be a whole lot more time to
hang out with people I do like. I am especially keen on limiting the
amount of television I watch, as well as the time I spend gossiping or
talking about trivial or inconsequential things. All in all, I figure
if I got really good at setting limits, I would have enough time for
just about everything I want to do before I die. The key is limiting
the bad stuff to create room for the good stuff. This is very different
than putting all my attention on the good stuff, which I never seem to
get around to because I don’t have time, energy or something. I think I
need to limit my procrastinating also.
Now this is where this idea gets really interesting.
When people retire, they generally enter in to a ‘no limit’
conversation—I can do anything I want whenever I want. In other words,
they have, more or less, total freedom. The problem is when you have
total freedom, then anything and everything is possible and you can go
crazy thinking about all the stuff you might do. While we’re thinking
about life without limitations (no boss, no emails, no schedule and so
forth), we are wasting time. If we’re not careful, this sort of
laissez-faire existence can become habit-forming. We can easily drift
into becoming spectators in our own process of life and lose direction,
traction, and even our capacity to drive our own boat.
I am still thinking about this, but the more I do, the more I am
beginning to appreciate the power, joy and possibility of making more
commitments as I get older….of the value in putting more limits on what
I don’t want and upping the ante of what I do with my time.
I know it is counter-intuitive, but maybe there is more work to do
as we age and become Elders—not less. Maybe retirement is the time when
we begin to be leaders. It’s almost as if I need to be limiting the
time I spend thinking about the way it was, the way it is and the way
it might be so that I can start making it that way.