Spend Your ‘Yes’ Wisely

There are different attitudes about scarcity in this world. Some believe that we live in a world of limited resources and, in order for one person to have something, another person must have without. Others believe that we live in a world of abundance and that there is more than enough to go around. Of course, there are those in the middle who believe that we live in a world of abundance, but that resources are simply not possessed or distributed evenly. Regardless of where one stands in this debate, one thing is certain. Time is a non-renewable resource and the way we spend our time is a zero sum equation. What is spent is gone and cannot be accrued again.

When we are young, the world and its possibilities seem infinite. We spend our time blisfully unaware of its passing, except when we are forced to wait for something. What child wants to wait for anything? As a child, there is only the present and the infinite future. As we get older, however, we begin to measure our time in hours and minutes. Much of this is due to the fact that, as we begin working, the time we give away to our careers is rewarded with a paycheck. We begin to trade our time for money. We believe that lack of money is our problem and so we set out on a quest to make our time more and more valuable to others in the form of higher and higher hourly wages or salaries. What once seemed to be in infinite supply, our time, soon becomes more and more scarce and we find ourselves needing more of it to do what truly matters to us. Unfortunately, time spent or time lost is never regained.

With every request or demand for our time, we have to decide whether or not this new thing is the most important thing in the world lest our time is literally wasted. That sounds rather dramatic, but it is a fact. Every moment is a decision to do that which matters most or that which matters least. There is no middle ground because that which does not matter most, since we can only do one thing in any given moment, by default is that which matters least. For every yes we say to a task, a project, a loved one, a phone call, our boss, a television show, a click on social media, we are saying no to all other things. Time is a zero sum equation. We do not get back what we spend. We can spend our time well or we can spend it poorly, so we must choose wisely how we use our ‘yes.’

-Robert Van Valkenburgh teaches Taikyoku Budo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu at Kogen Dojo

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