Life is flying by too fast? Here’s what you can do about it

Posted by Olena Mytruk

There is no lack of advice out there on what to do when life moves too fast and time is slipping through your fingers—but does it actually work? Let’s find out.

When I was a kid, I always wanted to speed up time. Christmas and my birthday would never come soon enough. I felt like time was moving way too slowly—sometimes it felt like it was crawling! I also felt like I had all the time in the world to do anything I wanted.

I remember my parents telling me whenever I was counting the days until next holiday or next vacation:

“The older you get the faster time flies—so savor each moment, don’t rush through life”.

I didn’t understand it back then. Today I do.

When life is flying by

Today, my perception of time has shifted completely—time is moving way too fast.

Doesn’t it feel like life is just slipping through your fingers?

There is always so much to do—and never enough time. Days fly by, and with that never-ending to-do list, and more and more commitments every day, you barely have the time to actually enjoy your life.

It is so easy to get buried in all those daily routines, duties, and obligations. And then you end up rushing through your day, going through the motions, and not seeing any significant results.

If you are anything like me, you don’t want to live the rest of your life like that. And if you google what to do when “life moves too fast”, you see the following advice all over the place:

Practice mindfulness. Slow down. Be more present in life.

The next morning after reading this advice, you tell yourself:

“Today I will be more present.”
Today I will make the time for one item from the bucket list of ’50 things I want to do before I die’.”
“Today I will slow down and will actually notice what is happening in the world around me.”

But then what happens? Life happens.

An emergency pops up, an urgent project gets thrown on your plate, kids get sick at the worst possible time. And before you know it, you lay in bed at night wondering where another day went and what you had been doing all day that you feel so empty and exhausted.

So, why doesn’t it work—that advice that you hear about everywhere?

What do spider webs and your busy life have in common?

Let’s take a step back for a minute.

Imagine a large beautiful spider web—one of those webs you saw when you went hiking with your family a month ago. Now, imagine pulling it with your fingers. You’ll be able to do it very easily—there will be little to no resistance.

But the moment you let it go, it will bounce a few times and return to its original state, or “balance” state.

Pretty obvious why it happened, right? The web strings are elastic and they brought the web back to its original state.

What is not so obvious though is that the same rule applies to your life.

(And the more multifaceted and complex your life is the more applicable this rule becomes.)

Your life is a system—just like a web.

It is a set of interconnected parts. And whenever you try to introduce the change, the system resists this change.

Having resistance is good—it keeps things in order (otherwise even the smallest intervention would throw the whole world into chaos.) But, it creates a problem when the change you are trying to make is a good change. The system doesn’t know whether it’s “good” or “bad”—it simply does everything it can to bring itself back to the state before intervention.

What would you do if you wanted to change the shape of the web? You’d have to pull it and then hold it in a new position long enough for the spider to come back and build new strings.

And the same applies to your life.

If you want to introduce a long-lasting sustainable change in your life, you have to use an imaginary hand that will “pull” your life in a desired direction and will then hold it there long enough for it to become your new “balance” state.

And here is the problem.

To do that—to create the initial “pull” and then “hold” it despite the resistance—you need time and energy. Lots of it.

And if I may guess, this is exactly what you do NOT have enough of—because you constantly battle all those conflicting priorities on your to-do list!

Here is the hard truth:

The items on your to-do list and all those life challenges and emergencies will keep bringing you back to your “original” state—no matter how hard you try.

Unless you change your approach.

And it’s not just the mindfulness advice that proves to be useless.

Have you ever been told to challenge yourself as a way to build confidence?
Or to push back on things as a way to manage stress?

It’s all a good old “chicken and egg” problem.

All these pieces of advice assume that there is a “cause” and an “effect”. But your life is not a simple set of causes and effects. It is much more complicated than that.

Your life is a system.

And if you want to bring it back under control, if you want to not only slow down your life but also achieve more and enjoy your life more, you need a different approach—a systemic approach.

Systemic approach to introducing change in your life

1 – Start seeing your life as a whole

Have you ever noticed that you are much more likely to lose your temper with your children after a tough day at work? Or that you sleep much better at night if earlier that day you did something that made you feel proud?

This is because all parts of your life are interconnected. They influence each other every single day—whether you are aware of it or not.

Once you learn what those interconnections are, you can intentionally shift that influence in the desired direction—including fueling your life using the activities you already perform daily.

This leads me to the next step.

2 – Maximize your existing life

Before you introduce a new change in your life, you will want to capitalize on what you already have. That means becoming intentional about what you do throughout the day, and, more importantly, why you do it.

Too often, we perform tasks “on autopilot”. Or, we multitask hoping that this way we will be able to get more done.

However, you likely noticed in the past that getting “more” done doesn’t necessarily mean feeling better at the end of the day—just remember that day when you answered 1,034 emails and still felt like you got nothing done.

So, if it’s not quantity then what is it?

Quality.

Start by asking yourself why this particular task that you are working on is important right now. If you have a clear answer to this question, you will increase your chance of feeling good once that task is complete—you will gain a sense of accomplishment, and it always feels good.

And feeling good means more positive energy—energy that you can now use to start introducing more significant changes in your life.

3 – Go beneath the surface

When we deal with any system, it is not enough to look at its parts or how these parts are interconnected. It is also critical to uncover the underlying structures that support the behavior of the system. It is necessary to master the laws that govern this behavior. It is important to understand the constraints that the system operates within.

There is a very powerful saying:

“If you believe you can, you are right. If you believe you can’t, you are right.”

What it tells us is that a lot of our limits and constraints actually exist in our own heads—in the form of our internal belief system, common stereotypes, and societal norms.

And there is only so much you can change within these constraints. (If you ever wanted to do something but then stopped yourself because “I can never achieve that”—this is exactly what I am talking about.)

If you want to introduce a significant change in your life, then most likely you will need to adjust these constraints—otherwise, you will hit the wall pretty soon.

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