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The Secrets of Time

By Dr. Alan R. Zimmerman

"Time flies. It's up to you to be the navigator." --Robert Orben


The great business philosopher, Jim Rohn observed, "Time is our most valuable asset, yet we tend to waste it, kill it, and spend it rather than invest it." That's sad ... because you don't get a second chance to use it. Your first shot is your last one. You get one crack - and one crack only - at using any given period of time. And if you screw it up, too bad. There are no do-overs.

By contrast, I've noticed that the happiest people and the most successful are almost always very skilled in the way they invest their time. Oh sure, they get the same amount of time as anyone else, 24 hours a day, and not a minute more. But you can be certain that the way they think about time - and the way they allocate time - is very different than the way negative, demotivated people approach it.

To make sure you're investing your time wisely, there are 4 things you've got to do...

1. Don't spend too much time in the past.
That would be about as foolish as trying to drive a car that had a rear-view mirror that was bigger than the windshield. You would probably crash. And the same goes for time. If you live your life in the past, you're going to crash the present. You're going to ruin it.

The past only serves two purposes. It provides lessons and preserves memories. So pick up the lessons from your past. Reflect on your good memories once in a while. And then get on with the present. As author Ida Scott Taylor wrote in the early 1900's, "One day at a time -- this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has yet to come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering."

2. Spend the "right" amount of time on the future.
The key is the "right" amount of time. If you spend too little time, you're living your life on auto-pilot. You're living your life without purpose and goals ... and that will never lead to happiness or success. If you spend too much time on the future, dreaming about how good life could be ... if only certain things would happen ... you once again miss the present.

You're living your life in a fantasy world, rather than working on making it happen. Of course, I know the "right" amount of time may be somewhat of a dilemma. The comedian Jerry Seinfeld commented on that. He said, "I was in the drug store the other day trying to get a cold medication ... Not easy. There's an entire wall of products that you need. You stand there going, 'Well, this one is quick acting but this is long lasting ... Which is more important, the present or the future?'"

Well, Jerry, I can answer that for you. The present is more important ... because what you do in the present determines your future. The Chinese knew that hundreds of years ago. As stated in one of their ancient proverbs, "If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions."

3. Focus on the present.
As I tell my audiences, "Wherever you are, be there!" Don't fret about work when you're at home, and don't worry about the kids when you're at work. Learn to be totally present.

The great conductor Arturo Toscanini mastered the skill. On his 80th birthday, someone asked his son Walter what his father ranked as his most important achievement. The son replied, "For him there can be no such thing. Whatever he happens to be doing at the moment is the biggest thing in his life -- whether it is conducting a symphony or peeling an orange."

Indeed, learning to live in the "now" may be critical to your success. As change expert Price Pritchett puts it, "Fast growth requires ... a strong sense of 'now-ness.'" You have to maximize the value of the moment.

As Pritchett goes on to say, "Pay attention. Consciously watch how you're spending the fleeting now, and consider the payback you'll get. Are you making a good investment of your hours and minutes? Or are you wasting these scarce resources ... spending time on stuff that offers little return ... fumbling the opportunity for fast growth?"

You need to show great respect for the now. If you fill it with right behaviors, you'll be rewarded with fast results. And finally,

4. Adopt the mind set of living in the present.
Now I know that's easier said than done ... that we all need to live in the present. But it can be done, if you reflect on a few slogans throughout your day. In fact, you can even write them down, put them on a card, and read the card three or four times a day.

And thanks to the millions of people who have gone through 12-step programs or other recovery programs, these slogans have been time tested and proven to work. So give them a try. They'll keep you focused on the present.

Yes, the more you reflect on these slogans, the easier it will be for you to live your life to the fullest ... in the present. And if you want to get real technical about it, the present is the only time you have anyway.

As mentioned in "The 500 Year Delta" by Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker, "Once upon a time, you could live in three tenses -- the past, the present, and the future. There was a time to consult history; there was a time to plan to what lay ahead. The present tense was spent managing the transfer of the past into the future and imagining what that future might be."

They continue, "Today, under the pressure of accelerating change, the past and future have been fused into a single tense: the present. The present is real time and real time is the only time."

Which of the living-in-the-present slogans appeals to you the most? Pick one. And then repeat that slogan to yourself several times a day for at least 30 days in a row.

As a best-selling author and Hall of Fame professional speaker, Dr. Alan Zimmerman has taught more than one million people in 48 states and 22 countries how to keep a positive attitude on and off the job. In his book, PIVOT: How One Turn In Attitude Can Lead To Success, Dr. Zimmerman outlines the exact steps you must take to get the results you want in any situation. Go to Alan's site
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