On the Shortness of Life

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”

– Seneca

Life is long if you know how to use it. The first time I read this line, it hit home hard. It forced me to reflect on my daily choices and actions, how I choose to spend my time. I am mindful to avoid saying that I am too busy and have no time to do something or to hang out.

There are two parts to this. One, as Debbie Millman says, busy is a decision that we make and we don’t find time to do something, we make time to do it. Rather than butchering this further, here’s Debbie:

Two, saying “I’m too busy” as an excuse is just plain lazy. You owe your family and family the truth. If you need the time to do a project, say that. If you’re not up for watching that new movie that just got released, say that. Again, thanks to Debbie for that.

“You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last.”

– Seneca

Take 5 minutes, right now, to reflect on the things you have been putting off and take the first step now. Seize today. Future you will thank you.

If you’d like further readings, there are two sources that I highly recommend:

  1. Tim Ferriss has the full text with his personal highlights at “On The Shortness of Life: An Introduction to Seneca”
  2. Maria Popova does a wonderful job weaving various sources on this thought the way only she can at  “The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long”

Remember, life is long if you know how to use it.


#the100dayproject 002/100

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