What's your percentage?
Updated: Apr 12
If you are reading this on a computer or phone in a developed country, chances are you are going to live to be about 80 years old--give or take a bit. You can get the experts' opinion here.
We all know our lifetime is limited, and during times of crisis or upheaval this point is hammered home.Our current times have certainly given many of us time alone to think about our mortality. Knowing that your days are numbered can give you new freedom (as long as you don't go down a morbid rabbit hole) to start saying "no" more often and making choices that fit your values. Recently, I described this feeling on the phone to a friend as a math problem: If I only have X years left to live (my life expectancy minus my age) then what percentage of this time do I want to devote to things that make me unhappy?
If you're 40 right now, that theoretical middle point in an average life in the developed world, how many of the next 40 years (what percentage) are you willing to give to a job you hate? What percentage of your valuable "second act" will you sacrifice for a toxic relationship? How many minutes, hours, days, or years will you willingly give to parties you don't want to attend, books you don't want to read, or projects that go against your values or don't work towards your goals? Now imagine you're 50, or 60...do your answers change?
This past week, I attended a webinar on getting the most out of life. The presentation had a lot of problems. The speaker was rushed and sort of chattered. They tried to tackle way too many topics in a short period of time (fear of change, procrastination, decision making, habits, organization, productivity & efficiency, regrets of the dying and happiness--just to name a few). And the technology needed some serious tweaking. However, there was one stand out quote: "Today is the youngest you'll ever be." The presenter was absolutely right--you and I are getting older every day. Our precious time becomes even more precious as every minute passes. It becomes more important every day to make conscious decisions about how we spend our time.
After 45 minutes, when the webinar showed no sign of improving or winding up, I signed off. I decided that just under 10% of a work day was all I would spend there. I picked up an idea or two, but knew I had more important things to do with the rest of my day than watch the presenter struggle or stay tuned for a sales pitch at the end. And I am totally fine with that decision.
As an introvert and HSP, I am no stranger to mulling over mortality and pondering the meaning of life or how I'll spend my time. However, I will admit it can be much harder to announce the decision, and stick to it, when you're deciding that you are not willing to spend a higher percentage of your time on an activity, than it is to decide. This is especially true if it's something you are being encouraged (or should-ed) into doing. So now I am asking myself, and those close to me, bluntly: What percentage of your time left on earth are you willing to give to this task, this person, or this cause?