Have we lost track of time?

Let me tell you a story. It is the story of a young woman, in her mid-twenties. She lives in a big city, has a stable and well-paid job, and some good friends. She gets along with her family well. She also has a lover. She is very close to him, closer than to anything else. Every night, before falling asleep, she exhausts her eyes looking at him. He always has something interesting to say always something new. In the morning, as soon as she opens her eyes, she grabs him and looks at him again. She looks at him when she is eating. She looks at him when she is commuting to work. She looks at him when she is running on the treadmill. She even looks at him when she takes a bath.

This lover is a smartphone, and like many people, this girl is addicted to it. Not because it is light and shiny, but because it delivers everything right at the second we ask for it. If you forgot who was president of the United States during the Second World War, your smartphone will be able to tell you right away. If you forgot how to bake a quiche, your smartphone will also be able to tell you right away. If you want to know what is shown at the cinema, or what the weather will be like tomorrow in the Caiman Islands, your smartphone will also be able to tell you right away. If anything happens in the world, your smartphone will let you know, without you even needing to ask for it! As soon as you hear it buzz, a sense of stress, of urgency is triggered inside. You have to look what it is right here, right now. You answer messages immediately and you expect people to treat you the same.

Our modern societies are going through a major mutation concerning their relation to time. Everything must be immediate. Urgency is never really leaving our minds. This shift can be partially linked to the adoption of the capitalist economic model by a significant number of nations on this planet. In this model, profit should happen fast, be almost instantaneous. In the last years, this extreme mentality has been enhanced by the apparition of instantaneous means of communication and has spread not only to businesses, but to every layer of the population.

Unfortunately, this new relation to time has not proven to be beneficial to a high number of people. Instead, more and more people are always in action and do not take the time to rest anymore, leading to a lack of reflection before actions, a lack of knowledge of why we do this or that thing, higher levels of stress and anxiety, and sometimes burn-outs and depressions. However, the sense of urgency that human deduct from this timeless lifestyle is not necessarily real. Indeed, our society has created fake emergencies, and we do not know how to deal with things in any other way.

Well, it is time to change! If you are looking for a more peaceful existence, if you are aspiring to happiness, you need to slow down. Give time to time. Working fast does not mean that you will work well. It is often wiser to take more time to finish a task than to rush it in and fail.

One of the dramatic consequences of this sense of urgency we constantly live with is the loss of social relations. The big city girl believes she has a lot of friends, because she has 3000 Facebook connections and she speaks to people through her screen. She is still in the dating game, as she goes to Tinder, the app for meeting new partners, every single day. But the truth of the matter is, she has not been in a real romantic relationship for years, and has not been out for a drink with friends in months. She also has never actually been the cinema in her neighborhood, even though she has been living there for a year and a half now. Eisenhower’s matrix, that helps classifying things in terms of both importance and emergency, is not so used anymore, as humans’ capacity to take some time for one’s personal developments is only getting lower.

Working and living in a time of permanent emergency makes us believe that we are beating death, as we heroically do an incredible amount of things in the time that has been allocated to us to spend on Earth. It makes us feel powerful. We can even forget about our own finiteness as we are stuck in the present. But while we are running against time, we are losing control over it. Pressure, the constant morphing of your personal schedule, incessant solicitations make us feel like we are losing control over ourselves, leading to anxiety disorders and depressive syndromes. People have trouble making long-term plans and hobble instead from desire to desire, in a very instantaneous way. The continuity of the self has disappeared. Dreamers are disappearing.

While this might seem like a very dark description of the world we live in, it is nonetheless true to a certain extent. To be successful in life, you will need time to be your ally instead of always trying to run against it. If you can relate to this big city girl, maybe now would be a good moment to look back, stop the clock and think about your real projects, about the real you that you want to build. Take a deep breath and slow down. The emergency is to take some time.

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