I spent a lifetime
Waiting for the right time
Now that you’re near
The time is here, at last
It’s now or never
Come hold me tight
Kiss me my darling
Be mine tonight
— Elvis Presley, It’s Now or Never
What is your five year plan? Do you have one? Or should we simply live in the moment? Is there purpose in the moment or only intent? Intent can cause all kinds of problems if it conflicts with purpose. Some say that five years is too long a period of time, entire cultures (looking at you, Japan) may think it too limited a scope. A long view is seeing the forest for the trees and setting the compass heading, while a short view is the immediacy of successfully executing this next step. It’s equally fair to say that we must know our general direction or we’ll walk in circles as it is to say it doesn’t matter where we were heading if we stumble and fall off the cliff.
The lens of a lifetime is simply too broad a focus because there are only so many things we can focus on at any given time. Given this, it’s better to set auto-pilot whenever possible so we can get back to the business of now. 401(k) plans are helpful because you set it and forget it. We can say the same about healthy lifetime habits like exercise and flossing. Such tasks are best left to auto-pilot, but we can’t very well live our life on auto-pilot, for one day we’ll look around and find we’ve missed everything that mattered.
Using the lens of time buckets becomes a way of understanding what our priorities ought to be in this particular phase of our lives. We only have so many years to do physical things, only so many years to be a parent, only so many primary earning years… it all adds up to a lifetime of only so many years. Within that lens of time buckets, our reason for being, raison d’etre, becomes more focused. Asking big questions about the entirety of our lives is impossible to answer, because we change so much over our lifetime. My raison d’etre at 20 was entirely different from my raison d’etre at 40. Looking ahead to someday 60 or 80 (if we’re so bold as to believe we’ll reach it), you see the reason changing dramatically over and over again. Sure, family and friendships will matter at any age, but a purposeful hike of the Appalachian Trail is rapidly shrinking down in relevance. It’s fair to say it’s now or never for such a life goal.
Waiting for the right time seems counterintuitive when we become hyper aware of our own mortality. Memento mori naturally leads to carpe diem, doesn’t it? It turns out it mostly doesn’t. Most people just live their lives as best they can. We can’t do everything, but we can surely try to do the most important things within the context of the time bucket we’re currently residing in. The time is always here for something. Prioritizing the really essential things for this time lends focus and urgency to the moment, enabling us to seize the day.