We’re already halfway through 2015. The new government has been in power for over a year yet it seems like only yesterday we were standing in line to cast our votes. And as we rapidly approach Malawi’s 51st Independence Day celebrations in July, for someone like me who was born in 1964 it’s a reminder that I’ve almost clocked 51 years on this earth. A reminder that I only have a finite time to fulfil my purpose and accomplish my goals.
Management guru Peter Drucker said: “Nothing else distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time”. And in “Leadership Gold: Lessons I’ve Learned from a Lifetime of Leading”, leadership expert Dr John Maxwell writes: “Nothing separates successful people from unsuccessful people more than how they use their time. Successful people understand that time is the most precious commodity on earth. As a result they know where their time goes. They continually analyse how they are using their time and ask themselves the question: Am I getting the best use out of my time?”
The only way to know if you’re making the most of your time is to firstly gain clarity about your purpose. Every leader needs to ask themselves these questions: Why am I here? Where am I going? What am I trying to achieve? Many people waste time because they have no vision for their life, no long-term goals or clear direction for their future.
The second reason people waste time is they are not in touch with their passion. They have no cause that is compelling them forwards. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Declared: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Too many of us are going through the motions of life, leading a mediocre existence. To get in touch with your passion pay attention to what moves you. What news headlines make you angry? What stories make you cry? What fills you with joy and laughter?
Only when you know your purpose and passion can you begin to set meaningful priorities. You can focus on the activities that contribute most significantly to your long-term objectives and have a lasting impact. And you won’t unwittingly neglect the most important things in life – your health, relationships, legacy and spirituality.
In Psalm 90, Moses asks the Lord to, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. Author Jeffrey Davis wrote a modern day parable, “1,000 marbles: A Little Something about Precious Time”, containing nuggets of wisdom from a nameless older man to a younger man named Tom who was making poor choices in his use of time:
“Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work 60 or 70 hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital.”
He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”
“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about 75 years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about 75 years. Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3,900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime.
“Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part.
“It took me until I was 55 years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over 28 hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy.
“So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.
“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.
“Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.
“It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band.”
So, how many Saturdays do you have left? And what are you planning to do with them?