Whether it’s exercising or avoiding dietary pitfalls to drop a few LB’s, saving more money for retirement, or crushing your debt, or even being intentional about building stronger relationships, motivation can be a difficult thing to find.
It’s not that we don’t want the benefits these things would bring. Indeed, we do.
It’s just that doggone it, we can’t find the will to overcome our lazy selves. Or we can for a short period of time, and then we fall back into old habits.
One reason for this is that we lie to ourselves and say that we can always do it in the future. Research has shown that we actually get a hit of pleasure-inducing dopamine just from thinking we’ll do something that’s good for us at a later date, even if we never follow through.
Since dopamine is highly addictive, we can easily fall prey to saying we’ll do something good for ourselves in the future that will require discipline or sacrifice (eating better, saving more money, etc.) and then never doing it.
For our selfish selves, it’s really a beautiful thing. Feel good for committing to doing something and indulge our laziness by not doing it.
It can cause a person to waste their most valuable asset.
Your Average Life
The average North American lives to be about 80. While it would be impossible to summarize an entire life in one picture, I’ll try.
Whoops, sorry. How’d that get in there. Wrong picture.
This is what a human life looks like in years.
Each box represents a year. 80 boxes = your life on a page.
A year though, is a relatively long period of time. It’s hard to get a deep sense of how long it actually is. I mean, we know how long it is, but it’s hard to deeply experience a year.
Perhaps a shorter time frame would be better.
For those of you keeping track, 80 years is 32,850 days.
Now that’s a lot of days to try to visualize. I personally can’t visualize 32,850 of anything. To me it’s far to large and abstract a number to wrap my head around. And I can barely remember what I did yesterday let alone account for each of my 32,000 or so days.
So let me ask you a question.
What’s your favorite day of the week?
Mine is Saturday.
I love Saturdays. Saturdays are when my wife and kids and I get to enjoy just hanging out. It’s when we do special things, like going out for breakfast, or taking the kids to skating or music lessons. It’s when I make lunch (I make a mean grilled cheese or pita pizza) and we all sit at the kitchen table and chat.
It’s the day that I get to sleep in a bit more. My daughter will sometimes bring me a delicious breakfast in bed of Cheerios!
It’s when I give pony rides and we play “dad’s the best playground” and I wrestle with my son. We get a few things done during the day, then go to church after supper. We come home to put the kids to bed and my wife and I crash and relax and maybe even watch a movie. Sometimes we even go on dates on Saturdays!!
It’s a day I LOVE (Sunday would be a close second). I mean, I like the other days of the week, but they don’t hold a candle to Saturdays.
A few months ago I saw a video at my church that was encouraging people to take stock of their lives. It was one of those “don’t waste your life” or “live like you’re dying” kind of things, except this time it really resonated with me.
The speaker was encouraging us to actually count how many Saturdays we had left in our life.
-____ (your age x 52 + # of Saturdays since your last birthday)
For me, the numbers looked like this:
When I did my calculation, I was taken aback by the finite number of Saturdays (weeks) remaining in my life.
Here is my life in WEEKS and how many Saturdays I have left.
There it stood on the page.
2225 Saturdays left.
No more. No less.
A Change in Perspective
Seeing this number changed my outlook on my time. Usually when we think about our time, it’s an abstract idea that we only ever briefly catch glimpses of at specific moments in our lives.
The birth of a child. The death of a loved one. That scene from Rudy where his elderly failing dad proudly claps and weeps as his undersized bull-terrier of a son is carried off the field at the end of the season with the crowd roaring wildly.
The point is, while both time a money are finite, money seems more so. When we spend, we can see our bank account actually going down. When we buy something, the cash from our wallets actually disappears. It’s tangible. Gone.
Time, on the other hand, is not so tangible. It just feels like it will run out “someday”. And as the famous Creedence Clearwater Revival song goes, many people treat their lives as though “someday never comes”.
For me, this exercise made my time a “real” number. It made me far more intentional about “spending” it.
So last Saturday when I spent my time helping my daughter and son run a lemonade stand at my in-laws garage sale, it was time well spent.
Not only has it affected how I view time by itself, but it has really reinforced how important it is to be honest with myself when it comes to how time impacts money.
And make no mistake, one of the biggest factors that affects our money is time.
The problem is, we like to deny the impact that time has on money. For some of us, we outright lie to ourselves.
And for many, we are pathological liars.
We tell ourselves that we don’t have enough money to be able to invest for our future. Our lack of saving for the future gets rationalized by telling ourselves that once we get that promotion and the raise that comes with it, then we’ll start contributing more to our company retirement plan. We’re too busy to take the time to draft a will right now, but when “things slow down” (which they never do) we’ll get to it then.
We lie, and we lie, and we lie. And the sad part is, sometimes we believe ourselves.
Perhaps the biggest lie that we tell ourselves with regards to our financial futures is that we’ve got lots of time to get our house in order.
To find out how many Saturdays you have until you retire, run this quick calculation:
Age at which you’ll retire x 52
-Age you are right now x 52 + # of Saturdays since your last birthday
O.k., so if that first number wasn’t motivation, this one should be.
I’ve got 925 Saturdays left until I plan on retiring.
That’s not that long, especially when you consider that each year eats up 52 of those!! It’s going to be here before I know it!!
Which is why both you and I can’t afford to put any of those important financial decisions off any longer.
Have you started saving for your retirement? If not, the best time to start was 10 years ago. The second best time is now.
Are you putting away enough to fully fund your retirement? Don’t put off finding out what that number needs to be NOW. If you wait, you may regret under saving (or over saving) down the road. My friends at Planswell can help you figure out where you’re at in terms of reaching your future goals.
Have you done your will? Don’t delay any more. You’ve played with fire long enough. Any longer, and you may get burned.
Bringing It All Together
Knowing the actual number of Saturdays we have left, whether in our lives or until our eventual retirement, paints a much clearer picture of what we need to accomplish TODAY.
While it’s easy to grasp the idea of opportunity cost with money and that spending cash on one item means we can’t buy something else, time as a finite resource is more tricky. Although more valuable than money in many ways, we have a tendency to not think of money in terms of opportunity costs, but we should. We often let time flow through our fingers without realizing that every moment we spend is a moment not spent doing something else.
With this insight should come a level of urgency. Not panic or anxiety, but thoughtful urgency.
Fear, after rall, can be a very powerful motivator.
Our days literally are numbered.
We owe it to ourselves to make the most of them.