The Way We Spend Our Time Defines Who We Are

When I was at IIMB last month, we were asked to introduce ourselves to the class. This is how it went – my name is Shilpa and I’m a software engineer, my name is Nidhi and I’m a Chartered Accountant, my name is Simli and I’m a scientist and so on. The facilitator said she didn’t ask us what we did for a living but who we were. Needless to say, every single one of us was puzzled and didn’t know what to say. 

Here’s an exercise for you : what are the top three things you spent the most time on in the past week? Write them down. Then write down the top three things you value the most in your life. Did the two lists match? Mine didn’t match and I’m sure yours didn’t either. 

Annie Dillard, in her beautiful book The Writing Life, says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.“

Dilliard’s assertion is a thoughtful reminder that we need to keep the balance in our life more heavily geared toward the beautiful, the sincere, the focused, the real-life connected, the tangible, the creative, the adventurous, the strange, the engaged and attentive. This can mean whatever we decide is important to us. A conversation, pursuing a passion, time with family, moments alone, spaces of quiet, new views taken in while we travel, the phone kept inside our purses during dinner.

My identity is made up of truths about myself, of my hours, of my life, and what I do with it. It is this one life we all have and I want to be fully present. It’s a simple conclusion. It makes me think of how I might answer the poet Mary Oliver’s question, “Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”