We all know about time. It ticks past us. At first, barely noticed. Then we want it to speed up so we can begin stuff (drinking, sex, working) or stop stuff (living at home, school, being treated like a kid). Then it ticks past way too fast and we work out that we’re halfway through our allotted time. We try and hang on to it, but no matter how hard we try we can’t slow it down. Then we run out. Our time is up. We only ever regret the things that we don’t do. Some of those things are left undone because time has run out. Some because we weren’t brave enough.
This way of looking at time is normal. We see it as a resource. We use it wisely sometimes, but squander it at other times.
My mate Dave brought this into stark focus for me last year. I remarked what a summer it had been. ‘Make the most of them, you’ve probably only got another 40,’ he quipped. He’s right. And for the last 10 of those, I’ll probably be incontinent/ incoherent.
This is what the Greeks called chronos time. The tick of seconds as they fly past us. It’s a measure of time that can’t be slowed.
But the Greeks were smart. They saw time in more than one way. They also had kairos time. The type of time that is much more personal to you.
Even though chronos time is ticking past, the right time for you to do something may still be coming. This is kairos time—the right time. It also embraces those moments when time slows down. When minutes become hours; when small things in time have a big impact. Kairos time is the right time for you. It’s personal time.
The world is full of examples of people who succeeded later in life. Or at least way later than ‘normal’. Sylvester Stallone, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Samuel L Jackson, Henry Ford, Charles Darwin, Julia Child, Harrison Ford, JK Rowling, Abraham Lincoln, Grandma Moses and Colonel Sanders all achieved success way later than their peers. Many would have given up by the time they succeeded.
Sometimes a greater gestation period produces a better result.
Sitting with the idea, sitting in the problem, can help define and refine thinking.
This isn’t an excuse to do nothing. Or to procrastinate. The Greeks had a word for that too: akrasia. To be fair, it isn’t just procrastinating. It’s spending time doing one thing when you know you should be doing something else. Although it is mostly translated as ‘procrastination’, Aristotle felt it meant ‘acting against reason’, while others have said it is ‘any judgement that is reached but not fulfilled’. Either way, it is widely seen as Greek for ‘dicking about’. But I’m left thinking about how many great ideas, life-changing decisions and world-changing inventions have been created whilst people were dicking about. So maybe a little akrasia is good for us too.
But the key, I think, is to not give up on your idea because of time.
Chronos time may be flying past, but your time lies ahead. Be ready for it. Prepare for it. Savour it.