Life is too short and your time clock is quickly ticking down: Are you where you want to be or heading in the right direction with your life and career?

By Jack J. Kelly

I attended another funeral yesterday. Over the last couple of years, I have been to over a dozen funerals, attended wakes, and sat Shiva, for both sets of parents and in-laws, family  members and friends.  For many of them, I watched helplessly as they succumbed to all sorts of cancer and health issues that ravaged their bodies and minds to the point that I now can’t recall the people they once were.  Incidentally, just curious, since my parents passed away, am I now considered an orphan? Would anyone adopt a 40-something year-old or is it too late for me? Also, do I have to now dress-up in the old timely orphan street attire with the short little pants, caps, and chimney soot rubbed in my little chubby red cheeks like you see in the old movies?

It never gets easy. It’s sad when a person you love, in his or her 80’s, passes and is incredibly heartbreaking when a 17 year-old high school senior slips on a hill, while hiking with family, and meets his demise, or a 52-year-old suddenly leaves us due to a heart attack out of the blue.

After each tragic event, we all confront our own mortality. We realize that there is an end to our story. We grieve for the departed, but also lament our own sad short existence. The feeling lasts a day or two; we return to our daily routines and put these unpleasant thoughts out of our minds.

Perhaps, we should think a little differently. Maybe we are supposed to use this time to evaluate where we are in life and work. Time passes way too quickly. I remember my dad telling me that when he looked in the mirror, he didn’t recognize the face he sees.  He said that he still viewed himself as a younger man with much more time ahead of him, but, unfortunately, we really don’t have that much time.

Are you happy in your job and career? Do you like and respect the company that you spend the majority of your precious time with? How do you feel about its employees, your boss, and close colleagues? Do you feel fulfilled and challenged? Is there a visible path to move forward and excel? Are you living your best life possible? These are the difficult questions we should ask ourselves before too much time passes and then we are stuck where we are. Now, you may be happy and content, and that is wonderful.  If you are not, perhaps, times such as this are for reevaluating your situation before it’s too late.

To offer a bad analogy, did you have a Matchbox or Hot Wheels race track set when you were a kid? Similar to the cars, we are stuck in our tracks and can’t go too fast, easily change lanes, or else we will spin-off and crash. We stay in our safe comfortable jobs and careers for fear of careening off the loops.  As a kid, wasn’t it the best feeling when one of the tiny race cars went super fast, started going through the twists and turns, entered the loopy loops, and then went airborne? That brief moment of the car flying was electrifying.

Rather than remain in your comfortable slot, is it time for you to consider other options, even if it is scary?  As we get older, it is so easy to fall into routines and habits which are hard to break. We socialize with the same friends, go to the same restaurants, watch the same TV shows , and follow the same sports teams. It gets harder and harder to change and easier to stay the same.

This inertia is compounded by the fact that once you hit your 30’s, you get more tired than you used to. If you sprain a muscle in your 40’s while exercising or just sitting in a chair, there is a good likelihood that the pain will remain with you for weeks, if not forever.  You are also not as brave as you once were.  When you were a teen or in your 20’s, the world was wide open with possibilities and it looked limitless.  As we age, we realize the world is a scary place filled with bad characters that do horrendous things.  Therefore, it is easy to retreat into the comfort of the hum-drum nonevent-full, less stressful life.

But while this is happening the clock is ticking down. There is a reason why most of the fun sports to watch have time limits. I only like watching the last ten minutes of football games, as that is when the action happens. The coaches and players realize that this is all the time they have and must make something happen – fast.  The losing team must make a big play to get ahead. As the two minute clock counts down, the fans and players alike are paying rapt attention knowing that it will all end soon. Why do we care so much when it comes to a silly game, but neglect this approach in our own lives, which are  more important and of greater consequence?

My suggestion to you is to fight back against the clock and consider if you are living a meaningful, happy, fulfilled life, according to your values and principles. If you are, that is great. If not, figure out what type of person you want to be and what career and job you truly desire. Then, set a game plan to achieve it. After that, play the game, as if it’s your own Super Bowl, and make something big happen before the final whistle blows.

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