“God placed you here for a reason. As long as you have breath in your lungs, you can make a difference in this world.”
In my office, a Post-it note hangs from my computer monitor with this question: “What will people remember about you once you’re gone?” It’s a subtle yet sobering reminder that life is short. I need this reminder every day.
Time is precious. It doesn’t offer reset buttons or do-overs. And, I suppose this is good. If time operated like a video game, I’m not sure any of us would get serious about much of anything.
Speaking of time, you have about 78 years of it. Or, if you prefer, 936 months. Seventy-eight years is a decent amount of time—unless you’re 77.
If you break down your years, however, the window for living out your purpose and making the most of your life closes considerably.
Just for giggles, I’m going to throw out a few numbers. Cool? OK, great.
You spend 25 years sleeping and another 10.3 years working. No real shockers there. But, wait. There’s more.
On average, you spend 3.6 years eating and two years in work meetings. You spend 1.5 years in the bathroom (said no man ever) and 92 days on the toilet. Women spend eight years shopping and one year deciding what to wear. Meanwhile, men spend one year staring at women, firmly cementing all men as creepy.
And, for the big finale, the most striking statistic of all: You’re awake around 53 years, and the average person spends 70 percent of that time in front of digital media.
A lot to digest, I know. Here’s the point: If you and I plan to make this life count, we better get on with it. Our days are numbered. They’re also sacred, divine gifts from God. How we steward them matters. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 5:15-16:
Be careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity …
Undoubtedly, you know someone who has wasted their life. It’s beyond unfortunate to watch someone with crazy gifts and talents who can’t get out of their own way.
But, what about you? Are you wasting your life? Are you fully engaged with your God-given purpose? Those in the former group need to know it’s never too late to live with meaning. And for those in the latter group, people who waste their lives share some commonalities. I want to share some of those with you. Here are seven ways to waste your life.
1. Distract yourself with good things.
I fear this will be my generation’s epitaph:
“Here rests a promising generation who never realized its potential because they busied themselves with many good things at the expense of their one thing.”
I have another Post-it note in my office that says this: “What did you do today that scared you?”
Why such a note? Your God-given purpose will scare you. It will stretch and push you far beyond your comfort zone. It will ask more from you than you have to give. That’s because your path is bigger than you. If you don’t need God’s help to make it happen, it’s probably not your one thing.
Discomfort and unknown aren’t exactly buzzwords. So, how might one avoid this path and also clear his or her conscience? By busying yourself with good things, a lot of them. Volunteer at church. Join a small group. Support your family. Go on a mission trip. All good things, right?
But not necessarily your one thing. And only you know whether you’re using good things to avoid engaging your one thing.
2. Avoid what’s right in front of you.
So, you’re not sure about your one thing. Thankfully, God isn’t into sending you on a hopeless game of hide-and-seek. Your one thing is right in front of you. Always.
Dang it. I hate hearing that. It means you can’t check out of this moment. It means reminiscing about the last thing or holding out for the next thing is all but useless in God’s economy.
Make no mistake, you will waste your life if you avoid what’s in front you. Maybe you’re not where you’re supposed to be. You were created for more. I believe you. But God has you where you are for a reason. And your obedience to the present moment determines the legacy you leave.
3. Tell yourself you don’t have enough time.
You know who doesn’t have enough time? Everyone who says so. We’re all on borrowed time. You’re not the only one.
Cursing the clock does nothing to change this reality. Father Time shows no partiality. You can’t manipulate or bribe him. Fair or not, he gives every human the same thing: 24 hours each day. You choose what to do with it.
And don’t forget, you serve a God who exists outside of time. He can take a few years and make them last a few centuries or more. Think about people like Moses, King David, Mary, Jesus and Paul. Or, and in more recent days, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. All of them breathed their last years ago, yet their lives continue to shape the world.
You have just enough time to fulfill God’s purpose for your life.
4. Talk about what you should do but never actually do it.
If you want a fast and quick way to waste your life, tell everyone what you’re going to do. Talk about that mission trip you’re going to take. Tell everyone about that co-worker who doesn’t know Jesus. Tell yourself you’re going to do whatever it takes to beat that addiction. Tell everyone what’s wrong with the world.
Draw up a battle plan. Make it look good. Use some computer program to straighten up those lines and make your plans clear and coherent.
Then, do nothing.
A meaningful life has a strong bias toward action.
5. Watch a lot of TV.
I didn’t mention this earlier, but the average person spends 9.1 years watching TV and another two years watching commercials. That’s more than 11 years in front of a TV. Now, I’m not against TV or Netflix. How else would I feed my Breaking Bad addiction?
But I want to say this directly: Those who spend 11 years in front of the TV are wasting their lives. Once you find something to give yourself to, something that continues living after you stop breathing, you don’t have much time for binge-watching or vegging out.
6. Believe certain false narratives about yourself.
Your brain is a story-forming machine. It takes your experiences, draws conclusions and judgments about them, and then pieces them together in a nice, coherent narrative. Some of these stories are helpful. Others, not so much. And you must be the final editor. Thoughts aren’t necessarily facts. And you must decide which narratives frame your worldview.
You see, behind almost every wasted life is a plethora of negative storylines: “I’m not good or smart enough. I will always be overweight. I will never overcome this.” And so on.
To make the most of your life, you must take control of the inner chatterbox and get him working for, not against, you. You can’t silence him. Nor should you. But you must have a serious conversation with him, if you haven’t already. You don’t need to say much. Just let your inner voice know you’re calling the shots now.
He’s free to share his thoughts. But you’re the head honcho. Numero uno. And you will sort out which thoughts are lies and which are truth.
Then, direct him to the back seat. And kindly ask him to fasten his seat belt.
7. Wait for permission.
If you sit around waiting for a permission slip or board to validate your purpose, you will waste your life. God signed off on your permission slip the moment he placed you on this earth. All you need is faith—in yourself, yes, but more importantly, in your Creator, who is working through you.
Your voice matters. You have something to give the world, something no one else can give. We need your contribution.
Step out in faith and give it to us.
God placed you here for a reason. As long as you have breath in your lungs, you can make a difference in this world. Get busy making something of your life. I’m cheering you on.
Before you go, I want you to chime in. What are some ways people waste their life? Leave a comment below.
Frank Powell is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. He is also a husband, father and Jesus follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee. You can find more of his content at Blog.BaysideOnline.