The Four Time Horizons and How We Spend Our Lives

A photo over the ocean, the water is choppy with a flat horizon and the full moon is visible even though it's daytime.

Why do we do things?

There are a lot of reasons, but usually, it boils down to us thinking that whatever we are doing will bring some improvement to our lives, perhaps just for the moment or perhaps in the long term.

Enter the four time horizons: a way of looking at the impact of an activity or choice today, tomorrow, and through the rest of our lives. I found this really helpful to clarify my desires as I considered various habits I am want to incorporate or increase in my life. It could also be used to consider the impact of less-desired habits or activities.

Today: The immediate impact of the decision or action.

- Moving my body today improves my mood and focus, makes my body feel more alive.
- Meditating today makes me feel calm and connected to the moment.
- Writing today gets me one step closer to finishing a project, gets a blog post out, or helps me sort through my thoughts.

Day-to-day: The way the activity impacts my life in a current, but ongoing way.

- Moving regularly means I can say yes to a hike with a friend, move a couch without worry, and feel more comfortable in my body in general.
- Meditating regularly means I am better able to recognize my emotions when they arise or re-ground myself when anxiety flares up.
- Writing regularly means I make continual progress on projects and my desired identity as a writer is matched by my actions.

The Unexpected: How does this decision impact unexpected situations that may arise?

- Moving regularly lets me recover more easily from injury or sprint to the grocery store before closing when I've run out of ice cream.
- Meditating regularly means that when an emotional upheaval occurs I already have a practice to help carry me through.
- Writing regularly allows me to have something in progress (or even finished!) if I ever happen to meet a publisher or editor who says the magic words, "send me some of your writing."

My Final Years: What impact does this activity have in my final years of life?

- Moving through my life means I will be more likely to be able to go to the toilet by myself, walk with balance, and stay independent.
- Meditating through my life will lend to mental and spiritual health in old age, feeling calmer and more able to accept circumstances that arise. Maybe I'll have more wisdom to share.
- Writing through my life will create a giant body of work, a way to communicate even if my body falls apart, an ongoing connection to my imagination.

Going through this exercise reminds me of the Annie Dillard quote:

"How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and that one is what we are doing."

(I came across this concept from The Workout Today newsletter (I've referenced its lessons before), and the benefits of moving were lifted directly from them!)

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